Monday, August 26

We all are guilty

Screenshot from a facebook page of an orphanage in India “thanking” Hucker of his voluntary service.

Screenshot from a facebook page of an orphanage in India “thanking” Hucker of his voluntary service.

WE should all feel guilty – the government, the law enforcers, the caretakers, the church, the parents – for allowing a  sex abuser to walk and work freely among our children, masquerading as an English teacher and pious church worker  but has fallen afoul of the law for abusing up to 200 young victims in Kuala Lumpur.

It was not for a month or a year but nine long years — from 2006 to 2014.

British child sex abuser Richard Huckle was arrested by UK authorities when he went home for Christmas in 2014.

The authorities said “while aware of his activities in Malaysia, they were powerless to act while he was out of their jurisdiction.”

Huckle had pleaded guilty to 71 offences against Malaysian children, aged between six months and 13 years.

It boggles the mind to think how evil paedophile Huckle had managed to get away with sexually abusing hundreds of children for such a long time by posing as a Christian philanthropist and English teacher.

He presented an image as a respectable English teacher but was, in fact, a paedophile targeting impoverished children, particularly in Kuala Lumpur.

The court was told he started abusing children when he was 19, and on a gap year teaching in Malaysia.

He boasted about his crimes on the hidden “Dark Web” and compiled a 60-page manual — Paedophiles and Poverty: Child Love Guide – on how to select victims and avoid detection.

He wanted to create a “Paedo Wiki guide,” the court heard.

His laptop also contained a “Paedopoints” ledger, awarding himself points for 15 different levels of depravity on children which he rated from “basic” to “hardcore.”

It was reported by the British press that the authorities would not have been able to track down Huckle had it not been for one word and freckle.

Police in Australia and Europe were aware of an encrypted paedophile site where all its users remained anonymous. But the creator of the site used the unusual greeting — “hiyas.”

After trailing chatrooms and forums, they found a fake Facebook page of a man who used the same greeting. That led to the task force in Australia tracking down Shannon McCoole, a childcare worker in Adelaide.

Taking photographs of McCoole’s hands, the enforcement officers were able to match a distinctive freckle with that seen in many of the images of abuse.

Last year, McCoole was sentenced to 35 years in prison.

The task force decided to assume McCoole’s identity on the site and this gave them a strong lead to tracking down Huckle.

At an early hearing, Judge Peter Rook QC was reported as having told Huckle he was considering life sentences.

“You have pleaded guilty to 71 counts. As you know, these amount to sexual offending of the utmost gravity, and as a result, I am considering life sentences in your case.

“I am also considering the minimum sentence you must serve. In any event, you must expect a very long sentence in this case, given that it comes into the category of cases of exceptional gravity.

“As everyone in this court will know, there is no distinction made between victims here or victims overseas. The cases are regarded as the utmost gravity in both cases.”

Twenty-two of the offences he pleaded guilty to carry discretionary life sentences and 18 of these are multiple incident counts.

Some 14 of the charges were for rape; five digital penetration; 31 sexual assaults; six grooming offences so children were exposing or touching themselves or other children sexually; 12 counts were for taking very many photographs; one count was for making photographs and one of advertising indecent photographs — plus one of arranging or facilitating child sex offences relating to the manual.

Huckle wrote in a forum titled “Moving into meatspace” that when he first visited South Asia, he fell in love with the place because the kids were adorable with families being easy to get along with.

He revealed he got particularly close with one family whom he had known about six years.

It’s such a horror to read what he shared: “I have had sexual contact with four of the girls in that family and although the family obviously do not approve it, they try to work around it as they know I can be a potentially valuable asset to them in the future.”

If what Huckle wrote was true, what kind of caretakers are we having? It’s no wonder he managed to get away without detection for nine long years!

While we reacted with shock to the revelations, it’s time for all who have been entrusted with taking care of God’s gifts of children, to be alert.

It’s not just setting up a hotline for the victims and urging people with information on Huckle to contact the authorities.

The Education Department should do more than just issuing a statement, saying the Briton was never part of a government-run programme.

It is also not just the help and counselling for the children involved.

Deputy Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Azizah Mohd Dun said she had not been told anything about paedophile suspect Huckle’s alleged crimes against local children.

“The prosecution is happening in England and victims are unknown and so we would, of course, like to help. That is our duty.

“The victims here, especially if they are Malaysians, we will help. Counselling, for a start, but at the moment, we don’t know who they are,” she told the British TV network Sky News.

These are the remedial works after all the harm has been done to our young innocent vulnerable children whose safety and dignity depend heavily on the protection of the government, authorities, law enforcers, parents and child caregivers.

We should also heed what Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (Ceop) head of operations Tony Cook has said: “There is no doubt the quantity and quality of the offending of this particular individual would have increased had he not been arrested.

“He’s only 30 years of age, so we can only imagine what sort of offending he had in front of him,” Cook added.

Indeed, Huckle would have harmed even more young and innocent children had his clandestine perpetration of paedophilia not been caught out.

But would justice have been served if he were put behind bars for life for his despicable crimes?

Malaysians have very short memory. How many of us still remember in May last year a “finger rapist” was acquitted of raping a 14-year-old girl and impregnating her in 2001? Bunya Jalong got away through his contention that he inserted his finger smeared with his sperm into the girl’s vagina and not through penile penetration.

It created a public uproar and in an immediate response, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department in charge of Law, Nancy Shukri said the government had already drafted amendments to the relevant law and in view of the “finger-rape” case further amendments seemed necessary.

One year on, we have yet to see the light of the “amended law”. How long more do we have to wait?

For the many victims, the scars will remain even after the wounds have healed. But let their scars left by the stained hands of a sexual predator serve as grim reminders that our young need protection against sexual perverts who walk among us as wolves in sheep’s clothing.