30 Oct 2007

Tougher penalties for child sex abusers called for in American Samoa

3:08 pm on 30 October 2007

Pressure is reportedly growing on the government in American Samoa to bring in harsher penalties for child sex abuse.

Earlier this year the Governor, Togiola Tulafono, announced plans to introduce a new bill which he now says would impose a life sentence on abusers of children under 16.

Our correspondent Fili Sagapolutele says a caller to the Governor's weekly radio programme has begged him to make more progress, saying she was disturbed at what she saw as light sentences in recent high-profile cases, some involving children as young as seven.

Fili Sagapolutele says most recently, sex abuse charges against a former church pastor who assaulted a teenager were dropped.

"The plea agreement between the government and the defence ended up being this church minister sentenced for only 15 days in jail and he'll be deported back to his country of Samoa. The lesser charges against the church minister were dropped."

Fili Sagapolutele says while there are no recent statistics on the number of victims, there is growing concern about the amount of child sex abuse in American Samoa.