A Briton who sexually abused Malaysian infants and children while volunteering in impoverished Christian communities in Kuala Lumpur over an eight-year period on Monday was sentenced in London to 22 concurrent life sentences, reports said.
Judge Peter Rook of the Central Criminal Court ordered Richard Huckle to serve a minimum of 25 years after the defendant pleaded guilty to 71 counts of child-sex offenses involving victims aged between 6 months and 12 years, Agence France-Presse reported.
Huckle, 30, who is believed to have abused up to 200 children, admitted to committing 71 offenses against 23 girls and boys from 2006 to 2014, AFP said.
The sentence handed to Huckle was too lenient, suggested Malek Ahmad, an official with Malaysian NGO Yayasan Amir.
“I just feel it is not equivalent to what he has done to the poor kids,” he told BenarNews. “But it is a lesson to all Malaysian NGOs and other related agencies. We need to quickly establish some sort of a guideline for social workers handling kids.”
Huckle took advantage of a lack of such proper safeguards in Malaysia, and as a result “23 children in Malaysia and Cambodia are scarred forever,” Malek said.
Did Huckle commit other crimes?
According to Malaysian officials, most of Huckle’s 22 victims were from impoverished Christian communities in Kuala Lumpur, where he had worked as an English teacher and Christian charity worker, and that the 23rd victim was Cambodian.
Kuala Lumpur Police Chief Amar Singh said officers had identified two locations in the Malaysian capital that Huckle frequented during visits to the country from 2005 to 2014.
Huckle was arrested by British police at London’s Gatwick Airport in December 2014, as he was returning home from Southeast Asia to celebrate Christmas with his family.
“Statements were taken from locals in the area were also taken. We are also tracking down people who know him for information on his activities in finding these victims,” Amar told BenarNews.
Police were also investigating whether Huckle may have committed other crimes against minors in other states that he visited during his trips to Malaysia, including Negari, Sembilan and Perak, Amar said.
Ong Chin Lan, the assistant head of the Royal Malaysia Police division that investigates sex-based crimes against children and women, on Friday told the state news agency Bernama that police had requested information about Huckle from Britain’s National Crime Agency (NCA).
“The victims have not been identified and the NCA only informed us about the incident about one month ago,” she said, adding that no information about victims had been released because the case had not been adjudicated in Malaysia.
“We have asked for the information repeatedly and will continue to press them for more information for follow-up action,” she added.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development last week set up a hotline for Malaysians to report information on Huckle.
The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia called for immediate action to pass robust and specific national laws to protect children from all forms of sexual violence, according to Bernama.
A handout picture released by Britain’s National Crime Agency shows Richard Huckle in custody. [AFP/National Crime Agency]
Huckle’s sentencing was expected on Friday but the judge at London’s Old Bailey pushed the date back to Monday in order to consider mitigating factors submitted by his lawyers.
That day they read out a statement from Huckle in which he confessed to “the true scale of damage” his acts had created in the Malaysian community.
“I had hoped to escape this mundane life of solitude in the U.K., yet was overwhelmed by the attention I received in Malaysia. I completely misjudged the affections I received from these children. My low self-esteem and lack of confidence with women was no excuse for me to use these children as an outlet,” his statement read, according to news reports.
“I am deeply remorseful and regretful of what had happened and will do all I can in being proactive towards rehabilitating myself,” Huckle added.
British investigators pointed to a 60-page manual written by Huckle and which was titled “Pedophiles and Poverty: Child Love Guide.” The manual explained how to select deprived children and avoid detection by authorities.
Investigators found the document encrypted on Huckle’s laptop