The Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday sentenced a 60-year-old French national to three years in prison but ultimately decided to reduce his punishment to one year behind bars after he was found guilty of buying sex from a 16-year-old girl, court officials said yesterday.
The court sentenced Jacques Bernard Rene Collinet to three years in prison and 2 million riel, about $500, in fines under article 34 of the anti-human trafficking law, but suspended two years of the sentence, Presiding Judge Chhay Kong said. Mr Collinet will be deported from Cambodia after he has served his time in prison, as he is a danger to other girls, he added.
“According to the document from the village chief the girl is 16-years old. We sentenced him to one year in jail and suspended two years and ordered him to pay 2 million riel to the victim,” the judge said.
Mr Collinet, who was arrested on Aug 12 in Phsar Kandal II commune, Daun Penh district, pleaded not guilty to the charges during his trial last Thursday claiming he was impotent and had only hired the girl for massage services.
Evidence against Mr Collinet included a tube of lubricant found in his room, which he admitted belonged to him. The girl also testified saying she had received between $5 and $10 to have sex with the suspect on at least four occasions.
After the verdict was announced yesterday Mr Collinet said he had been convicted without evidence and that the police had failed to investigate the case properly.
His lawyer, Dun Vibol, said the verdict was acceptable but that the court should also look into the actions of Action Pour Les Enfants, the NGO that helped police investigate the case.
“There should still be some blame on the NGO because they controlled the girl. Why did they let the girl out [on the streets] to work as a prostitute?” he asked.
Peng Maneth, the APLE lawyer representing the teenager, said the sentence was too low and that she would discuss with the prosecutor about appealing the verdict. “This is not the girl’s fault, she did it because she is poor,” Ms Maneth added.