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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Scott ponders future after conviction

Scott ponders future after conviction

G AVIN Scott, facing his last month in prison after receiving a lenient sentence on

rape charges, says he has not decided whether he will stay in Cambodia.

"It will depend on many factors. I have to walk out of here and see what I find,"

Scott, slated for release on Nov 22, said from T3 prison last Friday.

The English doctor, whose Oct 24 trial led to an effective five-month prison sentence

- he had already served four months - would not comment on the verdict or on whether

he would appeal his conviction.

"All I can say is I'm innocent of rape," he said.

But he said the possibility of an appeal was up to his lawyers, who are believed

to be leaning away from such a move.

Scott declined comment on whether he had the money to pay the $2000 fine also imposed

on him, or the legal fees of his high-profile lawyer Dr Heng Vong Bunchhat.

Bunchhat's assistant, former Cambodian Defenders Project co-founder Joyce Bang, said

the pair had taken Scott's case without any agreement on their fees.

Bang said she had received only $400 from Scott for minor expenses. She did not want

to go into how and when he might pay more.

"It's a moot point right now. Dr Scott has no money. I can verify that he has

no money at all."

Meanwhile, Bang said she had been deluged with more than 20 requests to interview

Scott from foreign newspapers, as well as proposals for "two or three books

[and] film documentaries" about his case.

"I told them I can't do anything until he gets out of jail. I won't give him

the details [of proposals] till he gets out."

Asked whether Scott had expressed any interest in the proposals, she said: "He

wants to give his side of the story. He can't stop people talking or writing about

it."

She added that Bunchhat would represent Scott in negotiations to tell his story,

"if and when that occurs."

At his Oct 24 trial at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, Scott was convicted under

Article 33 of the UNTAC criminal law, which covers rape and attempted rape.

Judge Nup Sophan imposed a two year jail term but suspended all but five months of

that. Scott, who spent four months in T3 awaiting trial, was returned there for one

more month.

He was also ordered to pay one million riels ($400) to each of five teenage complainants,

and placed on a five-year probation. There was no deportation order.

Sophan, in his ruling, said he had taken into account that:

  • Scott had made boys sleep on his bed, molested, kissed and had sex with them;
  • The boys were aged under 18;
  • Scott had "incited" the boys and had, with their agreement, given them

    money;

  • The boys hadn't had the chance to get a good education;
  • Scott was not the only person the boys had slept with;
  • The boys still had "normal" health;
  • Scott had been involved with caring for Khmers for many years;
  • This was Scott's first criminal conviction in Cambodia;

The judge, who described Scott's actions as sexual abuse, referred to the UNTAC

law rape provision [which provides for a 5-10 year jail term] and to the United Nations

Convention on the Rights of the Child [no penalties].

A Khmer co-defendant, Sotunt Vitah, was tried in absentia at the trial and sentenced

to one year in prison.

An alleged 'pimp', Vitah was charged with indecent assault under the UNTAC law -

which includes the offense of procuring minors for prostitution - and with complicity

in Scott's crimes.

The sentences were delivered in open court after a five-hour trial which was closed

to the press and public.

Testifying against Scott were five boys - two aged 14, two 15 and one 16, according

to the prosecution. His former cook, aged 24, also gave evidence as a "complaining

witness."

The Post understands that most of the boys testified they had met Scott or Vitah

at a park near Wat Botum and been invited to the doctor's house.

They testified they were fed, given money and had sex with Scott. Several had gone

on holiday with him to Sihanoukville or elsewhere.

Two of the five boys alleged rape (force or coercion) by Scott, according to officials

from End Children Prostitution and Trafficking (ECPAT), the NGO group which filed

the original complaint.

The other three were described by ECPAT as being unwilling sexual participants.

Of the five boys and one adult, one testified he had sex with Scott once, two had

slept with him twice, one had as many as a dozen times and rest between four and

12 times.

Several other prosecution witnesses, neighbors of Scott's, who had been issued summons

to testify did not show up at court.

The defense called three witnesses, former employees of Scott's. They testified that

children had visited Scott's house but that they knew nothing about him having sex

with them.

Affidavits from three other people, including a colleague and a neighbor of Scott's,

were presented by the defense.

Bunchhat, Scott's lawyer, argued there was no evidence of rape and that the indecent

assault provision of the UNTAC law might be a more appropriate charge.

He said Scott's former cook had been fired, and had a motive to lie.

Bunchhat also argued Scott had been denied access to a lawyer within 48 hours of

his arrest, breaching his procedural rights, and should be set free.

The children were represented in court by Aing Eng Thong, of ADHOC, who sought compensation

of $3,600 for each children from Scott, to be paid over several years.

Thong, speaking after the trial, said the claim was based on the children's mental

suffering, and to ensure they could be looked after properly until they were adults.

He said the $400 compensation per child that the judge finally awarded would go toward

education and job training for them.

"They are mentally damaged and I fear that one day they might replace Scott

if they're not raised properly."

Several of the boys have returned to their extended families. The rest are being

looked after by ECPAT NGOs.

At a press conference after Scott's trial, ECPAT officials said the case would not

alter the way they worked to help protect children from pedophiles.

Spokesman Tony Culnane said ECPAT did not "investigate" pedophiles but

collected information from streetchildren and others involved in prostitution to

pass to the authorities.

Referring to a "preponderance" of concern among foreigners in Phnom Penh

for Scott's rights, Culnane said it had to be remembered that Cambodia's legal system

was "by no means as clear-cut as it is in many countries."

"Nevertheless, it is our experience...that exploitation is of children is continuing.

We will continue to work in children's [protection]."

He cited ECPAT's recent involvement with Battambang police to rescue and care for

40 under-age girls from brothels as an example of good cooperation with the authorities.

Culnane also revealed that in Phnom Penh, Scott and Vitah were two of six alleged

pedophiles ECPAT had sent dossiers on to the police.

He said that of the other four, two were foreigners. One was Austrian Josef Schlik,

who received a suspended prison sentence for prostituting minors in June, and the

other a Canadian man who had fled Cambodia.

The remaining two people were Khmers, one a policeman serving a prison sentence in

T3 for child sex crimes. The other had an arrest warrant out for him.

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