Victim's lawyer argues sentence is ‘very light' after two years suspended; defendant will be free after five months on time served, court says.
IN a closed-door session the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Tuesday convicted a US national of buying sex from a teenage girl and sentenced him to three years in jail with two years suspended.
But Richard David Mitchell, 61, will be free in five months on time served, court officials said. He will, however, be fined US$2,000 and expelled from Cambodia after serving his jail term.
Mitchell was arrested last August by commune police at the public park at Wat Phnom.
The sentence revolved in part around the age of the victim. The police said the victim was 13, while the defence countered that she was 16.
Judge Chan Madina Tuesday ruled that she was in fact 15 and downgraded the charge from purchasing child prostitution from a minor under the age of 15, which carries a sentence of 7 to 15 years, to purchasing child prostitution from a minor of 15 years and above. That carries a sentence of 2 to 5 years in prison.
Defence lawyer Dun Vibol maintained his client was innocent and said police had concocted the case. He said his client was the victim of pick-pocketing. "But I accept the lighter sentence for my client even though he is innocent," he said. "I do feel that the court was unjust in not allowing the victim to speak to the court and ask it to lift all charges."
Dun Vibol said Mitchell would be out in five months as he has already served seven months awaiting trial.
‘A very light sentence'
The victim appeared at court Tuesday but refused to take the stand. At the previous hearing in February the girl ran from the court building.
The victim's lawyer, Teng Maneth, who was provided by child rights NGO APLE, said her client was very nervous about testifying, and consequently the court had moved to rule on the case rather than postpone it for a second time.
Teng Maneth said the court had been too lenient.
"It seems a very light sentence," she said. "The court should not have suspended his sentence for two years because that will allow him to repeat his crimes outside prison."