Violent preacher loses deportation appeal

A preacher who viciously beat his wife for three years, including gouging her eye blind, has lost his fight against deportation.

Reti Falaniko, a preacher at the Penrose Assembly of God church in Auckland, pleaded guilty in 2010 to 11 offences of varying severity, all committed against his wife between January 2004 and May 2008.

Falaniko argued he should not have been deported because he had had a subcutaneous defibrillator - like a pacemaker - implanted in 2006 following a heart attack. He argued he could not get the pacemaker serviced in his native Samoa if there was a problem.

The Immigration and Protection Tribunal, which heard Falaniko's appeal, said his violence against his wife began four months after they were married in October 2003.

Falaniko felt his wife "did not publicly give him the respect he felt ought to be accorded to his status as a preacher".

In January 2004 his wife became angry with him and walked out of church. "He followed her out and punched her several times in the face and body." In July of that year he punched and stomped on her because she did not give a thank-you speech in church.

The assaults increased in severity. She needed seven stitches after he threw a coffee table at her head at her parents' home.

On March 16, 2008, he accused her of having an affair and began assaulting her. "He said ‘Watch this. You're going to die' and either punched her or put his thumb into her eye." Attempts to save the eye were unsuccessful.

The judge who sentenced him to four years in jail said: "You are a degree holder in theology, you are a pastor in a church which preaches peace and love, turning the other cheek . . . yet you repeatedly, over a five-year period, bashed your wife severely to the point where she is now functionally almost entirely blind".

The tribunal said Falaniko had a high risk of reoffending and his pacemaker could be maintained in neighbouring countries.

Sunday Star Times