10 Nov 2017

Release of sex offender alarms Somali community

6:36 am on 10 November 2017

Wellington's Somali community is fearful about the imminent release from a psychiatric hospital of one of their own, who has a long history of sexual offending.

Wellington District Court.

Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Mohyadin Farah, who came to New Zealand as a refugee in 2001, was charged with rape and assault in 2015 but was found unfit to stand trial.

He has spent the past two years as a special patient.

His case was back before the Wellington District Court this week. At the hearing the Crown indicated no evidence would be offered on the charges and Judge Bruce Davidson dismissed them.

It is understood that occurred because, four years after she was attacked, the victim was no longer willing to give evidence.

The current charges were not Mr Farah's first contact with the justice system; he has previously been jailed for indecent assaults.

A person who knows him well was not willing to speak on the record but told RNZ Mr Farah was a ticking time bomb.

On one occasion, he approached a woman on a bus and grabbed her breasts and, when she tried to move away from him, he tripped her up and then shouted in Somali that he would kill her and do "bad things" to her.

He told the woman he knew where she lived, and he was going to come and rape her.

Another similar incident led to Mr Farah being trespassed from Wellington buses.

On another occasion, he knocked on the door of a woman who was unknown to him, repeatedly said he loved her and asked her for kisses.

In other incidents, Mr Farah approached strangers, made explicit sexual advances and, when they were rejected, forced his way into their homes and indecently assaulted them.

In 2015 Judge Ian Mill said Mr Farah had suffered considerably in his life and, while he was vulnerable, he was also dangerous to others.

That sentiment is echoed by Wellington's Somali community and one of its elders, Adam Awad, said his release from hospital will raise concern in the community, which has strong memories of his past offending.

"He gets very angry without reason and scares the people; [he] shouts at them and he's really very aggressive and very strong as well."

"The people [in] the Somali community, most of them are solo mothers and children and when you have that kind of person, very strong man suffering from these mental health disorders, it's really very scary."

Brenda Midson, a senior lecturer from Waikato University who has researched evidentiary issues in sexual assault cases, said it was not surprising that Farah's alleged victim was unwilling to give evidence so long after the charges were laid.

She said while the justice system has made significant inroads to improve arrangements for sex crime victims giving evidence, it is still pretty traumatising.

"If you're not used to that sort of environment... particularly in cases where you've been victimised by the defendant in that sort of way, going to court can really just open up all that trauma again."

Mr Awad said Wellington's Somali community would be willing to help Mohyadin Farah settle back into society and even try to find him a job, but because of the past issues, some people could still be reluctant to be around him.

He said he would like to meet Mr Farah before any encounters with the community, to ensure that his mental health issues have settled and he has recovered.

"The community members ... will ask me how he is, whether there is concern, should they approach him and I have to help them.

"I [also have to consider] how he can come into the community, how he can come to the meetings of the community.

"That's how you integrate easily - you come to the meetings, you can talk to the people and that's the way to do it."

A deportation order was issued for Mr Farah in 2008 and in 2015 his family told the court they were keen for him to be sent back to Somalia, but the order was not actioned because of the outstanding police matters.

It was also noted at that time there was no government in Somalia that could issue a passport or a travel document allowing him to be removed from New Zealand.

Immigration New Zealand's assistant general manager Peter Devoy said the service also found there was insufficient evidence to cancel Mr Farah's refugee status.

"Under the Immigration Act 2009 a person recognised as a refugee cannot be deported unless the Refugee Convention allows his or her expulsion for being both convicted of a particularly serious crime and being a danger to the country of refuge."

Capital and Coast Health was asked to confirm whether or not Mohyadin Farah is still in its care but declined.

A spokesperson said doing so would breach its obligations under the Health Information Privacy Code and the Privacy Act.