31 Oct 2007

American Samoan call for tougher penalties for child sex abuse

3:50 pm on 31 October 2007

The head of American Samoa's criminal investigation bureau says harsher penalties are needed for child sex abuse.

Commander Va'aomala Sunia says sexual abuse of minors is increasing every year and sentences are too lenient.

The governor has been criticised for dragging his heels over plans to introduce new legislation which he says could impose a life sentence on anyone convicted of sexually abusing a child aged 15 or under.

Commander Sunia says he would support the bill, but it has a long way to go to become law.

"I mean anyone in my position, and I've done this for years, will probably say to you that I hope that is the case, that they do get life in prison. But I just don't want to get my hopes up too high."

Commander Sunia says up to 90 per cent of child sex abuse in American Samoa goes unreported.