All Nations Christian Fellowship leader Reverend Epeli Ratabacaca has been sentenced to two years imprisonment and will not be eligible for parole until he has served a minimum term of 15 months in prison.
While sentencing Reverend Ratabacaca early this morning, Justice Paul Madigan said that despite Ratabacaca’s powerful mitigation, the breach of trust and absence of remorse prevents the court from alleviating the burden of an immediate custodial sentence.
Justice Madigan then went through the facts of the case after Ratabacaca was found guilty of sexual assault.
He said in this case, the victim was particularly vulnerable being mentally unstable after the birth of her fourth child and Ratabacaca had gone to some lengths to engineer her presence with him alone in the steam room in the massage parlor.
The judge said on the 22nd of June last year, Reverend Ratabacaca was with the woman who had approached him for help with her problems of anxiety and depression.
According to the court, the pastor accompanied the victim into the steam bath, removed the victim’s towel and sexually assaulted her.
Justice Madigan said the woman did not like this but was subjugated by the authority of Ratabacaca’s pastoral office.
The judge said in treating the woman in this manner, Ratabacaca was in gross breach of trust.
He said the woman trusted him as a pastor and counselor to help alleviate her post natal symptoms.
Justice Madigan said Ratabacaca abused the woman and her husband’s faith in him.
The judge then said that there was no reason either medically or otherwise that would suggest that semi-naked steam treatment would assist the victim in her fragile mental condition.
Justice Madigan also highlighted that Ratabacaca’s exemplary record in the military for 18 years and then leading a church since 1997 counts for nothing if a follower’s trust is betrayed and she is sexually abused.
Ratabacaca was escorted by police officers in a waiting vehicle after the sentence.
He was taken to the Suva Corrections Centre.
Story by: Vijay Narayan & Tokasa Rainima
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