11 November 2021

Rapists lose appeal over assaulting woman they met at Mooseheads

| Albert McKnight
ACT Courts

Three men found guilty of raping a woman they met at Mooseheads have lost their appeals. Photo: File.

Three men found guilty of raping a woman they met at Mooseheads have all failed in their attempts to challenge their convictions.

Following a judge-alone trial in October 2020, Saimoni Vunilagi, Ismeli Ilimeleki Natuwawa Vatanitawake and Josefa Navunisinu Masivesi were all found guilty of raping the woman by the ACT Supreme Court’s Chief Justice Helen Murrell.

They appealed their convictions, with the hearing lasting two days in May this year, but the ACT Court of Appeal’s Justice David Mossop announced last week that each of their appeals would be dismissed.

An earlier judgment for Vunilagi shows the woman arrived in Mooseheads Bar & Nightclub about 4:30 am on 3 November 2019, where the two flirted and began to kiss.

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The woman went back to Masivesi’s apartment in Dickson with Vunilagi and Vatanitawake where the three men raped her. Justice Murrell found the three each guilty of charges that included sexual intercourse without consent.

According to the Court of Appeal’s judgment by Justices Mossop, Chrissa Loukas-Karlsson and Wendy Abraham, the men appealed their convictions arguing the verdicts delivered against them were unreasonable.

The appeal justices said at the heart of the ground of the unreasonable verdict was an attack on the reliability of the woman’s evidence.

However, they found her account of what happened inside the apartment was consistent and that facets of her evidence were supported independently.

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Vunilagi alleged a couple of extra grounds, including that he “suffered a miscarriage of justice” because his trial was held before a single judge and not a jury.

But the appeal justices said, “there is no basis to suggest that the appellant did not get a fair trial, or that a miscarriage of justice occurred as a result”.

Vunilagi was sentenced to jail for six years and three months, but is eligible to be released after his non-parole period ends after about three years in June 2023.

Vatanitawake was sentenced to two-and-a-half years’ jail with a 15-month non-parole period while Masivesi was jailed for about two years with a 12-month non-parole period.

They will all likely be deported to Fiji once released from custody.

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