Child abuser's humanitarian appeal

SHABNAM DASTGHEIB
Last updated 08:37 10/04/2014

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A Samoan transgender woman with convictions including indecent assault of a child can appeal deportation on humanitarian grounds.

Saolele Tauialo Pelu's appeal against deportation to the Immigration and Protection Tribunal was dismissed last year but the High Court has now given her leave to appeal that decision.

Court documents show Pelu argued that if she was sent back to Samoa she would not have access to adequate hormone treatment or gender re-assignment surgery.

Pelu has lived in New Zealand off and on since 1998, often working as a fruit picker. She committed her first offence in 2007 when she was charged with indecent assault on a boy aged between 12 and 16 years.

She was convicted and sentenced to community work.

In 2009, she was convicted again, this time for luring a young boy into her car and assaulting him.

She was served with a deportation notice for this offence and then sentenced to three years and nine months in prison in 2011. Her risk of re-offending was described in court as medium-low and likely to occur as a result of loneliness among other factors.

In prison, Pelu continued a hormone treatment programme she had begun earlier, the court documents show.

She had also been saving for gender reassignment surgery that would cost her $7000 but spent all of her savings on clothing instead. Pelu had received the hormone treatment for free in prison. It costs $120 for nine tablets. She takes two per day.

She told the court her reasons for wanting surgery were to free herself of her attraction to boys. She felt if she became a full woman, the young boys would become her children instead of sexual partners. She said if she were to go back to Samoa, her convictions would not be accepted and she might not be able to find work.

The tribunal accepted the hormone treatment might not be readily available in Samoa and although Pelu could access it online, this could increase the risk of being exposed to unmonitored hormone treatment and inappropriate doses. She would also miss out on specialist medical and psychological treatment and support not available in Samoa.

But in its decision, the tribunal found that it would not be unjust or unduly harsh to deport her.

The High Court re-assessed the tribunal's decision last month and gave Pelu leave to appeal the decision based on humanitarian grounds. The High Court questioned whether the tribunal gave enough weight to exceptional humanitarian circumstances and said it was possible the tribunal had erred in this respect.

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Pelu's lawyer would not comment on a possible timeframe for appeal.

- Stuff

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