Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday ordered the reinvestigation of a 36-year-old British national’s child-sex case, after allegations of bribery postponed his trial in October.
Matthew John Harland, a computer engineer, is accused of purchasing sex in 2006 from an 11-year-old girl and indecently assaulting another 12-year-old girl. He was arrested in May.
In yesterday’s verdict, presiding judge Kor Vandy ordered the case be returned to an investigating judge due to insufficient evidence. He said the owner of the house that was allegedly provided for Mr Harland to abuse the girls in should be interrogated, and police officials and NGOs involved in the investigation should be questioned again.
“It is not enough for a witness to say a house owner provided a house for them to have sex together,” he said. “The investigating judge needs to question the house owner.”
During a Nov 19 hearing, Mr Harland denied the charges, claiming the girls lodged complaints because they wanted money from him.
Mr Harland’s trial was postponed on Oct 22 after he claimed he had paid a clerk $15,000 in exchange for a lighter sentence. Mr Harland asked the court to investigate, but when asked could not name the clerk who allegedly accepted the bribe.
Mr Harland’s lawyer, Neang Hay, said yesterday the court had insufficient evidence to convict his client, and claimed ignorance of Mr Harland’s confessions of attempted bribery.
“I hope that the court will find justice for my client,” he said. “I do not know about the court clerk corruption, and I do not know if my client gave money to the clerk or not.”
Samleang Seila, country director of anti-pedophile NGO Action Pour Les Enfants, said that if the court did not consider the evidence adequate to convict, he accepted its decision. But he suggested it would be more appropriate for the judge to focus the reinvestigation on the alleged corruption.
“I am suspicious why the court does not question the suspect on corruption, and instead refers the reinvestigation on the house owner,” he said.
Deputy prosecutor Heang Sopheak said he was too busy to comment.