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British pedophile gets seven years

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Matthew John Harland hides his face while entering the Phnom Penh Municipal Court in 2010. Photograph: Sovan Philong/Phnom Penh Post

The court of Appeal on Friday upheld the sentencing of British national Matthew John Harland to seven years in prison for purchasing child prostitution.

Presiding judge Pal Samoeun said the verdict, convicting Harland of buying sex from two girls, 15 and 16, and ordering compensation of one million riel (US$250) to each of the victims, stood.

Sameoun noted that anti-human trafficking and juvenile protection police had arrested Harland in 2010 on suspicion of forcing the girls to have sex with him in Phnom Penh.

The original verdict was announced in March, 2011.

Seila Samleang, country director of children’s protection NGO Action Pour Les Enfants (APLE), said Harland, 38, could be considered a high-risk repeat sex offender and should be deported.

“In any pedophile case, we ask the court to deport the offender, but they have rejected this request,” Samleang said.

“Deportation is very necessary in his case.”

According to APLE, the two victims testified that they had been sexually abused by Harland and received between US$50 and $100 in exchange for sex.

Samleang noted the abuse had occurred in 2006, but the victims were reluctant to come forward initially.

Harland denied the accus-ations during his February, 2011 trial, stating: “I did not have sex [with the girls].”

Dun Vibol, a defence lawyer who often represents foreigners accused of pedophilia, said Harland still had options.

“The sentence length is a common one for this type of crime, but he can still appeal to the Supreme Court or ask for general amnesty,” Vibol said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Buth Reaksmey Kongkea at reaksmeykongkea.buth@phnompenhpost.com
Rachel Will at newsroom@phnompenhpost.com

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