Church Minister sentenced to probation and community service


Reverend Poasa Leaupepe, who pleaded guilty to the assault of a boy who died in Safotu two years ago, has been sentenced to six months probation and 60 hours of community service. 

The defendant appeared before District Court Judge Alalatoa Rosella Papalii yesterday for sentencing. This case was initially held before the Supreme Court. However, the prosecution filed a motion to reduce the manslaughter charge to assault against Reverend Leaupepe after the autopsy report confirmed the young boy died from leukemia complications.

The defendant was initially charged with manslaughter, grievous bodily harm, and actual bodily harm. However, pleaded guilty to the reduced charge of assault from the felony country of manslaughter.

The rest of the criminal charges were withdrawn. The incident occurred in February 2020 at Safotu, where the defendant serves as a Church Minister.

During sentencing, her honours noted the gravity of the defendant’s offending warrants a sentence reflecting the sentencing principles under sections 5 and 6 Sentencing Act 2016.

These are deterrence, denunciation, and holding him accountable, bearing in mind the principles of the Community Justice Act 2008, which promotes the desirability of keeping offenders in the community so far as practicable and consistent with the community’s safety. 

The District Court Judge also took into consideration the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which is an international human rights instrument that sets out the fundamental rights of children and the obligation of signatory governments.

Samoa ratified the CRC on 29 November 1994, and Samoa must apply domestic laws and court decisions. Samoa does not pay lip service to protecting its children and promoting the principles of the CRC.

The victim was 16 years old and is a child /infant by definition under the Crimes Act, Infants Ordinance, and other legislations. The CRC applies to this case.  

Initially, her Honours considered a custodial sentence; however, the court considered the defendant’s medical condition, old age, and long service as a church minister.

Judge Alalatoa said after hearing the Church Minister speak, she was not impressed with his conduct, which she found troubling. She said his threatening and intimidating behavior exhibited during one of the testimonies is unacceptable and contemptuous, and it shows his strong character and lack of respect for the court’s process.

Her honours also noted that the defendant believed he did nothing wrong by assaulting this child.