The Ministry of Justice has defended a new law on child sex crimes following a string of reduced sentences for pedophiles after they appealed their convictions.
A representative of the anti-pedophile organization, Action Pour Les Enfants, said Friday that the Appeal Court has reduced prison sentences for six convicted foreign pedophiles since June 2008.
According to APLE, the cases include: the June 2008 case of New Zealander Malcolm Anthony Hartfield, whose 10 year sentence for debauchery involving the abuse of four young boys was reduced to six years; the July 2008 case of a Swiss man, Hurni Hans Ulrich, whose 11- year sentence for having sex with a 12-year-old girl was reduced to 2.5 years, and who was released early this month; the August 2008 case of Belgian Phillipe Dessart, whose 18- year sentence for abusing a young boy was reduced to three years and who is to be released next month.
According to APLE, there was only one case in which the Appeal Court did not reduce a sentence. In December 2008, the 13-year sentence for American Myron Maboris was upheld, but the charge was changed to paying for child prostitution.
Justice Ministry Undersecretary of State Ith Rady, who is also a deputy head of the national taskforce to fight human trafficking, said by telephone Friday that the new anti-trafficking law is good and that child sex criminals will no longer be brought up the wrong charges.
“The old law didn’t have a clear definition of charges and a person could face the same charge of having sex with a child if they had only touched a child,” he said.
“In reality, we must not think of the severe or light punishments. The important thing is that we must do the education,” Ith Rady said. “Without education, applying severe punishments alone will not stop them from repeating the offenses,” he added.
The new Law on Suppression of Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation took effect in February 2008, replacing the UNTAC-era law that gave a 10- to 20-year prison sentence for debauchery, the charge for all child sex crimes. The new law has detailed charges for different sex crimes.
Under the new law, indecent acts can only be punished by a maximum of three years in prison, while having sex with a minor under 15 could land a perpetrator in prison for 15 years, Ith Rady said.
Sok Sam Oeun, executive director at the legal aid NGO Cambodian Defenders Project, said that the new law has more detailed definitions when charging people.
“For the charges before, our law was not clear. They just brought the charge of debauchery. Now we have the new law that is clear,” he said.