Offences such as child trafficking, cyber crime and sexual offences are now included in the revised Act, which comes into force on May 1st.
The Crimes Ordinance Act became law in 1961, but had never been updated.
Speaker: Aumua Ming Leung Wai, Samoa's Attorney General
WAI: We've had our Crimes Ordinance 1961, that has not been updated ever since it came into force. So for over 50 years we've had the same crimes ordinance, whereas for example in New Zealand and other countries they have updated their crimes legislation in order to keep up with the times so to speak. So there are new offences that we have not legislated for, some of the offences are contained in our crimes ordinance were outdated and not relevant anymore to our country.
COUTTS: What offences will be included in the new act?
WAI: Well we have various new offences in this new act, for example cyber crime offences, for all types of cyber crime offences. We're trying to include them all into the act. Blackmail for example, that's an offence now, voyeurism and other new offences are smuggling and people trafficking for example, solicitation of children, those are some of the examples of new offences in this new crime act.
COUTTS: And offences relating to invasion of privacy, and is that solely when it relates to people engaging in sexual activities or will it have a wider brief?
WAI: No, no it's limited to persons or people engaging in sexual activities.
COUTTS: And is that to maintain their privacy or what is the point of it?
WAI: Well yes it's to maintain privacy and to stop people from recording and passing on such recordings as well. So there are two stages to it; one, makes it illegal to record persons engaging in sexual activities without their consent or without these people knowing, and secondly when you pass on such material, that is an offence as well under the new crimes act.
COUTTS: And you're hoping I'm guessing that if there are penalties now and strong penalties, particularly in the attempt to reduce sexual offending, that that will actually be the case. I'm just wondering how much research has gone into that and will that actually be the case?
WAI: Well that's always been the debate around the world, if a country increasing the penalties would that result in reducing sexual offending, so that's inconclusive. But from our consultations and what our parliament has decided is we would head down the path of increasing the penalties, and that's what we've decided and we're hoping that that would result in deterring sexual offending in Samoa.
COUTTS: Is crime in Samoa in general on the rise?
WAI: Yes I can say that, yes it is on the rise, I guess with development and with the work of various NGOs for example Samoa Victim Support, it is actually getting victims to report crime, report sexual offences, and so it is on the rise, I can say that for sure.
COUTTS: Now I didn't ask you before, we talked about the new offences that will be included in the ordinance, but what ones are now outmoded and will be coming out?
WAI: There are a few I think, one will be where males who dress up as females, that was an offence, so that's still an offence until this new act comes into force. So I believe that with Samoan society where we accept fa'fafines, males who are more feminine, I don't think it's appropriate for us to make it illegal for them to wear women's clothes. And we have several fa'fafines who come to work and they wear women's clothes and under the crimes ordinance that is an offence. And I think that's certainly something that we had to remove from our law books.
COUTTS: When the ordinance comes in but before it actually gets stamped will there be any opposition to it or will it have a smooth passage through parliament?
WAI: Well it's already been passed by parliament in March. The actual coming into force will be the 1st of May. And throughout the time it was tabled during the consultations in parliament and before that we had public consultations which were spearheaded by the Law Reform Commission, we had no opposition to updating our crimes legislation.