A man convicted of multiple counts of rape of minor girls in northern Namibia was recently sentenced in the Oshakati High Court to a combined 12 years in prison by Judge Marlene Tommasi.
While his youth was a mitigating factor, the judge said, it is not the only factor to take into account in sentencing.
“It must be viewed in the context of the crime committed, the repetitive nature thereof and the exploitation of vulnerable young victims, who must carry the emotional scars for their whole lives,” the judge noted.
She said the accused carefully planned the commission of his offences by waiting for the children to come home from school. As a juvenile offender he was treated with mercy and released into the custody of his guardian. He understood that his conduct would have ramifications, but persisted. This makes him a dangerous person unless restrained,” the judge found.
She stressed that the court cannot ignore this fact just because he is a juvenile offender. According to Judge Tommasi, the accused must understand that for each of his actions there are consequences, so that he may think twice before repeating same.
Judge Tommasi sent a stern warning to all juvenile offenders, saying: “The message must be clear. If you commit serious crimes, you shall like adults, receive custodial sentences.”
According to the sentencing judgment, Martin Johannes Elago was 15 years old when he committed his first rape. Shortly after his sixteenth birthday he raped another victim twice on the same day. Twelve days after his release into the care of his guardian he attempted to rape another complainant.
His victims were 12, nine and eight years old, respectively.
Tommasi said despite the youthfulness of Elago, she consider him a risk to society and ought to be deterred from committing similar crimes, so a custodial sentence was unavoidable. However, she said, the sentence is structured in such a manner so as to not destroy Elago, but to give him a chance to rehabilitate.
Accordingly, she sentenced him to five years each on the three rape convictions, but ordered that three years on the third five-year sentence run concurrently with the second five-year sentence.
She further sentenced him to three years wholly suspended for five years on condition he is not convicted of rape, or attempted rape during the period of suspension on the attempted rape conviction.
According to the judgment, the first complainant – who was just a little over 12 at the time – came home from school on March 16, 2010 and Elago grabbed her, hit her twice on her back with his fists, forced her to lay down on her back and then raped her.
Further, two days after Elago turned 16 on June 6, 2010 he approached a nine-year-old girl on her way from school and raped her twice. He was arrested and appeared in court on June 9, 2010 on that charge in during August for the first rape. He was then released into the care of his guardian on October 13, 2010.
Shortly after his release he attempted to rape an eight-year-old girl walking home with friends on October 25 and was again arrested and released into the care of his guardian.
Judge Tommasi said it appears Elago used the same modus operandi each time in that he would wait for his very young victims to come home from school and sexually assault them.
She noted that he committed a series of sexual assaults on defenceless young children.
“The community was terrorised by the accused’s behaviour [over]… a period of time,” the judge stated. She furhter noted that: “The victims were vulnerable young girls who were unable to defend themselves against the onslaught of the accused, who was older and physically stronger than them. His conduct made it unsafe for the children in that community to walk home from school in broad daylight.”