The Court of Appeal yesterday reduced the prison sentence of a 45-year-old Italian man convicted in 2008 of committing indecent acts on children from two years to three months because he was “sorry.”
Fabio Cencini was arrested in Preah Sihanouk province in February 2008 for committing indecent acts against four children aged 10 to 14, but he was released on bail that May. Preah Sihanouk Provincial Court found him guilty in absentia the following September.
Having spent three months in pretrial detention, Cencini will not have to return to jail in light of yesterday’s sentence. But he will still have to pay a fine of $500 and another $500 in compensation to each of the victims’ families.
“The court decided to reduce the sentence to three months in jail and to spend the rest in probation because the defendant confessed, and he is very sorry for his wrongdoing,” said presiding Judge Seng Sivuthy, adding that Cencini’s mother, who lives in Italy, was very old and needed to see her son before she dies.
At the Court of Appeal yesterday, Cencini accepted responsibility for his actions, said he did not know his behavior was unlawful, and apologized.
“I didn’t know that molesting a child’s penis or vagina is wrong under Cambodian law,” he said.
Tith Savuthy, Cencini’s lawyer, declined to comment on the decision because he had yet to speak with his client.
Noun Phanith, an attorney for the anti-pedophile NGO Action Pour Les Enfants and the victim’s lawyer, said that the decision to reduce Cencini’s sentence was unacceptable.“It seems to eliminate punishment of the defendant,” he said at the court.
Kong Pisey, deputy director of the Cambodian Defenders Project, said a conviction for indecent acts carries a minimum sentence of one year in prison.
But he said the judge may have decided on a lighter sentence due to mitigating circumstances.