Child Sex Trial Starts After Two Postponements

Phnom Penh Municipal court tried a 36-year-old British national charged with purchasing sex from a child and committing an indecent act with a minor after allegations of bribery postponed his trial twice.

Matthew John Harland, a computer engineer, is accused of having sex in 2006 with two girls who were 11 and 12-years-old at the time. Police arrested Mr Harland in May.

“I did not have sex with them and I also did not commit indecent acts with children,” the suspect testified yesterday. “The two victims complained about me because they want money from me.”

According to testimony read aloud by a court clerk, one of the victims, who is now 15, said she met Mr Harland while she was selling books and that the other victim, who is now 16, was her friend. The victims testified that the suspect told them that if they ever wanted money all they had to do was have sex with him.

The 15-year-old testified that she had sex three times with the suspect and he paid her $50 to almost $100 each time.

The 16-year-old victim testified that the suspect bought her underwear, then committed indecent acts with her and gave her $50.

Also during the trial, the 13-year-old sister of Mr Harland’s 20-year-old live-in girlfriend, withdrew her testimony that he touched her inappropriately and said she only testified under pressure from police and an NGO.

“If I didn’t answer like that, I would be imprisoned,” she said.

Than Phanith, deputy chief of the municipal anti-human trafficking police, said police received information about the suspect from anti-pedophile NGO Action Pour Les Enfants then they investigated the case, before inviting the victims to testify.

“[The victims confessed] the suspect really had sex with them,” he said. “The police did not force the victims to answer and thumbprint.”

Mr Harland was originally to be tried on Sept 1 but he claimed he paid a $15,000 bribe to a clerk in exchange for a lighter sentence. The trial was postponed a second time on Oct 22 when the suspect asked the court to investigate. When asked who the clerk was, Mr Harland could not name the clerk who took the money.

Presiding Judge Kor Vandy will announce the verdict on Dec 8.


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