Australian Sex Offender Denies All Charges

Fugitive sex offender Clint Betterridge denied charges of debauchery, rape and indecent dealings with young Cambodian girls Monday in an Australian court, the first round in legal efforts to have him deported back to Cambodia, Agence France-Presse reported on Tuesday.

Betterridge, 35, appeared in Southport Magistrates Court where he instructed duty solicitor Peter Darwin to protest his innocence.

“He strongly denies the commission of these offenses in Cambodia,” Darwin said during the short court appearance, ac­cording to AFP.

Barrister Penny Floyd, prosecuting on behalf of the Cambo­dian government, told the court that Betterridge fled Cambodia in January just days before his trial in Siem Reap town where he was convicted in absentia to 10 years in prison.

“He was convicted in absentia on the child sex offenses…. He has not served any of that sentence,” Floyd told the court, according to AFP.

Remanded in custody to ap­pear in court again on May 7, Betterridge did not apply for bail.

Since fleeing Cambodia, Bet­terridge had been living in a caravan park on Australia’s Gold Coast.

Instruments allowing the extradition from Australia to Cambo­dia came into force on March 13 and are aimed particularly at Australians accused or convicted of child sex offenses.

Betterridge is the first Aus­tralian faced with deportation to Cambodia, embassy and government officials said.

However, it is likely to take months of legal wrangling before a decision is made by the Austra­lian court on whether Betterridge is to be returned to face prison in Cambodia.

The Cambodian Supreme Court last week criticized the Ap­peals Court for granting the Australian man bail, a decision that allowed him flee to Australia, the court said.

A likely key to Betterridge’s defense will be claims he would not have received a fair trial in Cambodia, where the courts have long-been criticized for rampant corruption.

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