The Appeal Court on Tuesday heard the case of a man convicted last year of sexual harassment against his three-year-old niece after the Kampong Speu provincial court prosecutor complained that the court’s decision to downgrade the charge from rape and only impose a three-year jail sentence was too lenient.
In front of the convict at the courtroom, Judge Pol Samoeun read a statement saying that sometime between April 19 and 24 last year, In Soreach, 24, went to meet the victim while she was playing.
The statement said Soreach grabbed his niece, took a branch from a tree and inserted it roughly into her genital area.
The girl then told her mother about the incident and her mother filed a lawsuit with the commune police chief. Soon after that, the accused was detained by the police, the judge said.
Shortly afterwards, the mother took her daughter to the provincial hospital for a check-up and the results revealed that her genital area had sustained lacerations.
The provincial court charged Soreach with raping an underage girl but, when the court announced its verdict late last year, it convicted him of a lesser charge of sexual harassment.
Soreach was sentenced to three years in prison and ordered to pay four million riel ($1,000) in compensation because the court said there was no clear evidence to say how the victim had sustained her injuries.
The provincial court prosecutor then lodged an appeal saying the sentence was too lenient for the crime that had been committed.
However, he said on Tuesday that he could not remember the case clearly because it occurred a long time ago and he handled a lot of cases.
During Tuesday’s hearing, Soreach confirmed to the judge that he was the girl’s uncle but said he had not committed the crime because on that day he had gone to play snooker nearby.
“I ask the court to release me because I have two small children. No one makes a living to look after them,” Soreach said.
However, the prosecutor, Kim Keo Kalyann, concluded by saying that she had reviewed all the statements and listened to Soreach’s testimony and that of the victim.
Taken together, Keo Kalyann said, and despite Soreach’s denials, she was satisfied that he had indeed inserted the branch into the victim’s genitals.
“Normally, when a girl is only three years old, she would not fabricate a story like this. So it is clear that there was a sexual assault.
“I would like to ask the chamber to refuse the verdict handed down by the Kampong Speu Provincial Court,” she said.
The victim’s lawyer, who asked not to be named, also concluded at the courtroom by saying that Soreach had indeed committed the assault because it was detailed in the police record and the victim’s testimony.
“I would like to support the conclusion made by the prosecutor because the case affects the security of our society, especially when the victim is a minor,” he said.
Soreach’s lawyer, Chuon Sethsamphors, concluded by claiming that the charge against his client was without foundation as there was no evidence and no witnesses saw Soreach assault the girl.
“I would like to ask the court to set him free,” he said.
Judge Samoeun said a verdict would be announced on August 13.