AWARENESS: Children are suffering in silence as society turns a blind eye, says city police chief
KUALA LUMPUR: MANY cases of child abuse go unreported due to apathy by parents and society in general, leaving the victims suffering in silence.
City chief police officer Datuk Mohmad Salleh said many cases were not brought to the attention of the authorities also because of the shame and embarrassment which the victims and their families were likely to endure.
"This is not right. Children, too, have rights. They have the right to see that justice is done, the right to heal from their trauma through professional help," Mohmad said.
He was speaking to more than 500 primary school and kindergarten teachers, as well as representatives from non-governmental organisations, orphanages, hospitals and counsellors at the Senior Police Officers College in Cheras here.
The event was a seminar on creating awareness on child sexual abuse cases.
Between 2009 and 2011, 114 child sexual abuse reports were lodged with the police here. In the first six months of this year, police received 10 reports.
"I am quite sure that there are many more cases which have gone unreported due to shame and embarrassment or simply because of apathy and indifference.
"Based on experience, the main reason for such cases going unreported is societal indifference. In modern society, everyone minds their own business and does not care about issues outside their homes."
Mohmad pointed out that if adults noticed something was amiss or wrong with the child, they were duty-bound to inform the authorities instead of allowing the victim to suffer in silence.
"If a child looks gloomy, glum, scared, pressured or spends time alone instead of playing with his peers, these are all tell-tale signs and symptoms that they are victims of abuse," Mohmad said.
"In this kind of situations, do not dismiss the issue or take it lightly because indirectly, we are denying the child his or her rights."
He said studies have shown that if authorities took the trouble to help the victims, the suspects are usually caught and in most cases taken out of society."
"The public must be educated on how to prevent cases of sexual abuse against children as they are helpless and unable to defend themselves," Mohmad said.
The day-long seminar, organised by the Malaysian Crime Prevention Foundation, also saw families of child abuse victims coming out in the open to share their experiences and relate how they overcame the social stigma.
One of Britain’s worst predatory paedophiles, who targeted, groomed and abused up to 200 Malaysian babies and children and shared images of his horrific crimes on the dark web, has been handed 22 life sentences.
Richard Huckle, 30, a photographer from Ashford in Kent, who posed as an English teacher and philanthropist in poor Christian communities in Kuala Lumpur, admitted an unprecedented 71 offences, including rapes, against young children aged between six months and 12 years between 2006 and 2014.
Some of the 23 children identified in the charges were abused for years, including one from the age of three until 10.
The number of his victims was believed to be much higher – investigators found a ledger and scorecard on his computer in which he awarded himself marks for different kinds of abuse of 191 girls and boys.
Judge Peter Rook QC on Monday ordered Huckle to serve a minimum term of 25 years to reflect the “public abhorrence” for a “campaign of rape” that spanned nine years. He told him it was “very rare indeed” that a judge had to sentence sexual offending by one person on such a scale.
Rook told Huckle: “Your offending behaviour became entrenched in your everyday life. Your life revolved around your sexual activities with young children. Your distorted beliefs in respect of children are deep-seated. Your self-delusion knows no bounds.”
Based on Huckle’s “chilling” experiences and observations – he once boasted it was easier to abuse children from poor communities than middle-class western children – the 30-year-old had drafted a “truly evil” manual for other paedophiles that promoted child sexual abuse tourism, the judge said. He had even sought to profit from his crimes by attempting to sell footage to other abusers, he added.
“It appears that your conduct was escalating,” Rook said.
“It is also clear that, had you not been arrested, you planned to continue the same lifestyle using the expertise that you were keen to show off to and share with other abusers so as to continue your sexual exploitation of the children of such communities.”
Images and videos of Huckle’s rapes and assaults on very young children were shared with paedophiles around the world via the dark web.
Rook told him: “Relentlessly, you preyed upon the very young – pre-pubescent vulnerable children from a minority ethnic community into which you ingratiated yourself. This was a prolonged campaign of rape of the children from a small community.”
While presenting himself to his victims’ families as a respectable English teacher and philanthropist who could help them, Huckle was “systematically abusing the children you claimed to care about”.
This was one of the most aggravating features of the case, the judge said. Huckle, wearing a grey sweatshirt, his long, unkempt black hair scraped back in a ponytail, stood impassive with his palms clasped together, as if in prayer, as he was sentenced.
As he was taken down to the cells, a member of the public shouted from the gallery: “A thousand deaths is too good for you, I know one of those families.”
Rook said Huckle had almost certainly “blighted the lives” of his victims and caused them “severe psychological harm”.
A letter which Huckle submitted to the court on Monday, which contained apologies to his victims’ families and the Malaysian government, was an attempt to “justify the unjustifiable”, Rook said.
However, in light of Huckle’s refusal to hand over encrypted passwords to hidden files on his computer, the judge added: “In my view, you may well harbour feelings of regret but there is no feeling of genuine remorse in this case.”
Huckle first visited Malaysia on a teaching gap year when he was 19, and went on to groom more children after posing as a Christian English teacher and philanthropist.
Five of the children were living in a children’s home and on one occasion he took a girl out to celebrate her fifth birthday and molested her at his house in Kuala Lumpur.
His arrest came after Austrialian investigators tracking the activities of a now convicted paedophile who ran a child abuse site on the dark web noticed Huckle was a prolific user of the website.
The National Crime Agency, which was criticised by Malaysian authorities for failing to alert them early enough of Huckle’s crimes, admitted it was first told about his offending in August 2014 but did not have enough evidence to present to Malaysian police for another three months.
Speaking outside the Old Bailey, Andrew Brennan, the NCA’s deputy director, said it was first contacted by Australian authorities in August 2014. But he said the NCA had to then identify where and who Huckle was before providing the Malaysian police with “all of the intelligence” in November 2014.
“They didn’t have sufficient evidence to arrest him, we made a decision we would arrest him in December 2014,” said Brennan.
“I’m very confident we worked very, very closely with the Malaysian authorities and an NGO based in Malaysia.” He also insisted there was “absolutely no evidence” or intelligence of Huckle offending in the UK.
The NCA arrested Huckle as he arrived at Gatwick airport on a trip home to spend Christmas with his parents in December 2014.
Officers seized Huckle’s encrypted laptop and managed to uncover more than 20,000 indecent pictures and videos, although there were other files they were unable to retrieve.
When Huckle confessed his crimes to his parents, after his arrest, they begged police to take him away and made statements supporting his prosecution.
Ahead of his sentencing, Huckle claimed to a psychiatrist that he wanted to put his “madness” behind him and settle down with a woman from south India. But the court was shown a posting from 2013 in which he outlined his plan to marry one of his victims in order to help him abuse more children.
The judge concluded that Huckle posed a “substantial risk for an indefinite period”.
James Traynor, from the NCA’s child exploitation and online protection command, said: “Richard Huckle spent several years integrating himself into the community in which he lived, making himself a trusted figure. But he abused that trust in the worst possible way.
“He deliberately travelled to a part of the world where he thought he could abuse vulnerable children without being caught.”
Traynor said the NCA had tracked down Huckle and used legislation that allows UK nationals to be prosecuted in the UK for offences committed overseas.
He said: “Borders are no barrier – we are determined that those who go abroad to abuse children will be held to account.”
Anthony Hill, the international justice and organised crime prosecutor at the CPS, said: “It is hard to put into words the sheer depravity of this case. For almost nine years, Richard Huckle subjected at least 23 children, some of them very young, to the most horrifying abuse imaginable. He deliberately targeted and groomed vulnerable communities abroad to gain their trust.
“Borders are not a barrier to justice and the CPS worked with the NCA to painstakingly review all of the evidence from the internet, his computers and cameras. The strength of our evidence led to him pleading guilty to 71 charges.”
Huckle’s crimes were so serious that prosecutors planned three separate Old Bailey trials as they felt one jury could not cope with viewing all the videos and photographs of abuse.
In January, Huckle pleaded not guilty to all 91 charges, but ahead of his trial in April, he gradually admitted 71 of the offences over the course of five more hearings.
He has already spent 488 days in jail, so faces more than 23 years in prison before a parole board can consider his release.
The NSPCC said Huckle was a “frighteningly depraved paedophile” who had “bragged about raping babies and delighted in abusing infants who trusted him” and who had left a trail of devastation.
In a statement, the NSPCC added: “It is horrifying that Huckle was able to profit from this appalling abuse by using the web to sell images and even films to other paedophiles; emphasising the importance, yet again, of the need for a cohesive, global effort from both the authorities and internet services providers to combat this vile trade.”