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The Canberra Times
The Canberra Times
Hannah Neale

Victim claps as attacker jailed, despite 'disturbing development'

Seti Moala leaves court on a previous occasion. Picture by Tim Piccione

A choking victim, wearing a shirt emblazoned with the words "silence is not an option, stop, fight for change", clapped upon hearing her attacker would spend at least a year in jail.

She was supported by a group of about a dozen other women, all wearing the same white T-shirt with black writing, in the ACT Supreme Court on Monday.

Chief Justice Lucy McCallum said the victim had "been dealt an extraordinary injustice", before sentencing Seti Palei Moala to two years behind bars with a 12-month non-parole period.

Upon learning his fate, Moala remained stony-faced, even when the victim pointed directly at him saying "I will see you again", before officers escorted him to the cells.

In September, jurors found Moala, 28, not guilty of sexual intercourse without consent in company and two counts of sexual intercourse without consent.

Moala was found guilty of choking the female victim at Lyneham Motor Inn in the early hours of April 3, 2022.

Co-accused Paula Fala Kata, 35, was acquitted of sexual intercourse without consent in company and sexual intercourse without consent.

Moala and Mr Kata were accused of "acting together" and raping the woman at the motel after she had fallen asleep.

On Monday, Chief Justice McCallum said she was legally bound to "largely ignore" an "extraordinary turn of events" which occurred in court earlier this month.

While giving evidence on October 17, Moala, after being acquitted of rape, admitted he was having sex with the victim when he was holding her down.

This was at odds with the defence case put to the victim during the trial, that she and Moala had not had sex.

On Monday, Chief Justice McCallum said she was required to sentence Moala on the basis there had been a "violent struggle" culminating in Moala choking the woman, but there had been no sexual intercourse.

"The most disturbing aspect of this development is that the victim has been subjected to the trauma and humiliation of in effect being branded a liar during the trial only to hear during the proceedings on sentence that she was cross-examined on a false premise," she said.

"To add insult to the victim's injury, I am now required by law to disregard the offender's admission ... the principle of double jeopardy holds that he cannot be tried again or punished for those offences, even though the defence was conducted on a false basis.

"The victim in this case has been dealt an extraordinary injustice by a legal system in which allegations of sexual assault, more than any other kind of allegation of criminal conduct, are often met with deeply embedded scepticism."

Moala will be eligible for release in September 2024.

  • Support is available for those who may be distressed. Phone Lifeline 13 11 14; 1800-RESPECT 1800 737 732; Canberra Rape Crisis Centre 6247 2525.
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