©Malay Mail (Used by permission)
KUALA LUMPUR, June 12 — The Malaysian Bar said today Putrajaya must establish and immediately implement a comprehensive child protection policy to stop sexual predators from repeating the offences of convicted British paedophile Richard Huckle.
Bar president Steven Thiru said the policy must be three–pronged to: create awareness on child rights and the country’s responsibilities in protecting them; improve ability and capacity here to detect, report, investigate and follow up on sex crimes against children; and ensure the justice system is sensitive to the needs of victims and their families, and allows for appropriate punishment on persons convicted.
“Our social services, educational, health and legal systems, as well as the levels of funding, must be assessed.
“All necessary steps must be taken to help families protect children’s rights and create an environment where children can grow in good health and safety,” he said in a statement here.
Steven lauded the moves taken so far by local authorities in the wake of Huckle’s conviction but said while these were commendable, the Briton’s case had also highlighted the need to go beyond short–term reactionary measures.
He pointed out that before Huckle’s arrest in the UK in December 2014, the Briton had operated under the radar in Malaysia for nearly nine years from March 2006, allegedly abusing close to 200 children aged between six months and 12 years.
The Bar president also noted that Huckle, dubbed in the UK as Britain’s worst paedophile, had preyed on pre–pubescent children from minority ethnic communities by posing as a student, photographer, English teacher and even as a philanthropist.
“It is no coincidence that the abused children belong to minority and marginalised communities, as perpetrators target the most helpless among us.
“Only the formulation and implementation of a comprehensive and holistic national child protection policy will ensure that our children are shielded from harm, enjoy their childhood, and are able to thrive and fulfil their potential,” he said.
Steven called it “perplexing” that during this long period of abuse, no police reports were lodged against Huckle.
He noted that the Malaysian police were also unaware of the man until they were notified by the UK authorities in November 2014 but even then, no action was taken.
“He (Huckle) remained under the radar, and we, as a society, were seemingly oblivious to the harm that he was causing,” Steven said.
Huckle was last Monday given 22 life sentences in the UK for his sexual crimes against impoverished victims aged six months to 11 years, many of them in Malaysia.
After his case came to light the week prior, the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry set up a hotline urging those with information to come forward.
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Nancy Shukri has said the necessary amendments are being made to strengthen laws governing child protection.
The police are also in the process of identifying Huckle’s victims as well as his accomplices.