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Sex crimes

Litia Cava
Wednesday, November 22, 2017

SEXUAL offences committed against children in Fiji are troubling, says Chief Justice Anthony Gates.

Justice Gates said 59 per cent of rape victims last year were children. He was speaking at the launch of the research report by Fiji Women's Rights Movement (FWRM) on Balancing the Scales: Improving Fijian Women's Access to Justice at Tanoa Plaza Hotel in Suva yesterday.

"We do not have the answers yet," Justice Gates said.

"Much, much more work will need to be done by psychologists and experts in the field before we will know why this is and what steps are needed to prevent and to treat."

Justice Gates said prison terms would never be enough.

"Undoubtedly there have been significantly more severe punishments being brought down by the courts in recent years.

"Strangely, that seems to go unacknowledged."

Justice Gates also stressed that the media must report only on facts and also to be accurate when reporting on covering sexual-related offence cases, especially from courts.

"I think some of the stories you have to treat carefully, firstly is to stick to the facts and be accurate.

"Sometimes people come up and say I was not in court, what happened, can you tell me? Well that is not very good journalism.

"I know the problem is that you can't be everywhere and you certainly can't be in all the courts but be very cautious about what you say and who you ask.

"There are copies of rulings, the summing ups, judgements and sentencing remarks available and the courts are ready to give copies to journalists."

Director of Public Prosecutions, Christopher Pryde echoed similar sentiments and said the office had set up a media liaison officer.

Mr Pryde said the officer assisted the media with information or details of cases that they needed.

"We have found that this has helped to make sure that accurate details go out into the public domain and also an opportunity for us to remind the media about sensitive cases," he said.

"We recognise that the media has an important role to play and that's supported by our division's liaison officer."

Meanwhile, FWRM surveyed 49 women about their experience of the formal justice system.

The report highlighted that more than 6000 women initiated family law or domestic violence restraining order applications in the Fiji courts in 2016.

Thus, only one in three of these women were represented by the Legal Aid Commission.

FWRM research team leader Menka Goundan said according to the data received by the team, women were overwhelmingly the victim in sexual offence cases with nine out of ten sexual offence cases (rape, attempted rape, indecent assault and child sexual assault and abuse cases reported to the police) being committed against women and girls.

Ms Goundan said the recommendations drawn from the research project by the team looked at those recommendations that could be implemented by the police, ODPP, court in the next 12 months.

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