In The Nick Of The Politics Of Prosecuting Sex Abuse Update

Blog/The opinions here are those of the author.

He had the ticket and had booked his seat but just 24 hours
before David Fletcher was due to be deported from Thailand – as
a persona non grata having served a jail sentence in the UK for sexually
abusing a minor – his trip to Blighty was called off, and instead he
now awaits deportation to Cambodia.

Fletcher you may recall had his own volunteer project in Phnom
Penh’s Stung Mean Srey garbage dump feeding the kids, not really an
appropriate occupation for a man who boasted that he had younger sex
partners than his children did.

People in Cambodia were concerned but unfortunately not so discreet
about it. So much so that half of Phnom Penh including Fletcher,
65, knew that he was being watched. After the Sunday Mirror in the UK
publish an account of his activities Fletch hopped it across the
border to Thailand – not a good choice bearing in mind that Thailand had
already started deporting convicted British sexual offenders.

Some of Phnom Penh’s less discreet NGOS were up in arms that a British
newspaper had spoiled 18 months of work investigating Fletch. Indeed
they were spitting fire and four letter Anglo Saxon words and five
letter French ones.

David Fletcher on his food run at Stung Mean

On arrival in Bangkok however Fletch was quickly banged up to await
deportation and with consular support feverishly sought help from
friends to get him a ticket home.
Britain’s CEOP – Chief Exploitation and Online Protection –
investigators essentially had four choices, if indeed they were calling
the shots.
(1) Do nothing and let him be deported back to the UK,
(2) Let him return to the UK and re-open an old case involving a minor which had not been actioned.
(3) Let him return to the UK and charge him there with travelling abroad with intent to abuse
(4) Send him back to Cambodia and let the authorities deal with him there on new charges.
They ruled out the first two, perhaps because of the new noise coming
from Cambodia and they ruled out number 3, because, I guess,
 prosecution would depend on a coherent file coming from Cambodia, an
unlikely event.
So number four it was, prompted quickly by the knowledge Fletch had a
ticket home to Britain.  Perhaps there was something Henry II and Thomas
a Becket about it all.
But getting the Cambodians to get their act together is not easy
hence on the 4th of this month, the night before Fletcher was due to
fly, there was a flurry of activity at Thailand’s Office of the Attorney
General, which rubber stamped Cambodia’s initial application (in which
they forgot to ask specifically for extradition) but instead asked in a
rather Asian roundabout way ‘that the right thing be done’.
Now it’s entirely up to the Cambodian authorities to present a coherent case for extradition.
Two CEOP officers flew out from London to assist with the investigation
but, according to my pals at the  ‘OAG’ it appears the extradition
charge only seems to relate to a 16-yr-old, not a minor, who says she
had sex with Fletcher. 
It’s not difficult to see that a British court may have difficulty
convicting on a belated complaint months after the event,  particularly
amongst all this politicking. Not only that the girl in question is now
18 and the family are seeking substantial  US$ compensation something,
which possibly may not have occurred to them prior to the involvement of
Cambodian ngos and police as they were VIP beneficiaries of his food
and break run. And the sex took place when the girl was 17, perhaps 16
at the earliest.
There is no set in stone law in Cambodia with regard to the age of
consent. But debauchery with a minor – where the minor is under 15 – is
punishable with long terms of imprisonment.  As this is not the case
here it looks like Fletcher is being charged with obtaining sex by
deception or some sort of sexual breach of contract!
Currently NGOs in Cambodia are petitioning to have the age of consent
pegged at 18 in Cambodia, two years higher than Britain and four years
higher than some European countries. Many Cambodians marry before that
But it seems the Thais do wish to help the Cambodian’s here and maybe
that has something to do with the current sensitive political climate
and stressing both countries are pals in ASEAN.
Actually when I wrote the story originally my worst intention was to
get this guy out of the way of kids and out of Asia. Having spoken to
one of his victims I cannot say I would be unhappy if Cambodia meted out
justice in the same way he exercised his ‘power’ back in Britain.
 And on a positive side this all puts the wind up people thinking about going to Cambodia and chasing minors.
But is Cambodia really getting the message or is it all talk and
posturing? Some stiff sentences have been overturned within a matter of a
few months. Will Fketcher get justice?  Its unlikely. Its going to be
more like a bit of ‘what comes around goes around’.
Prosecuting sexual crimes and dealing with offenders is a haphazard business in Cambodia.For instance Briton Gareth Ashley Corbett, 51, has now been released
from prison after being jailed for year for abusing a 12 year old in
Sihanoukville and no effort appears to have been made to deport him. To
many people’s concern he is still running around looking for money and
an occupation. Its a case surely for prosecution in the UK if CEOP wants
to show it is enforcing the new laws back home.
Footonote: In the interests of balance I include this reply received
from Press Office at CEOP regarding my list of options which they
essentially dimissed saying the Cambodian option as the only one.
‘No on both counts. On (1), action was taken but like any UK law
enforcement agency we are not permitted to breach any aspect of victim’s
confidentiality by discussing their case.
On (2) you’ve misunderstood – of course we prosecute offenders where
they have returned to the UK – you’ll be aware that we use the
extra-territorial legislation which allows us to do so. What I said is
that ‘in country’ prosecutions are our PREFERENCE, mainly because these
more effectively deter offenders and potential offenders from visiting
that country in the first place, reducing the problem for the country.
Where requested CEOP will work alongside local law enforcement to
support this’.

The fact remains of course that justice in Cambodia is an elusive
commodity.  But then I agree with CEOP.  Less well off child abusers
should indeed see that as a deterrent. And I see hope in the recent
conviction of Alexander Trofimov and his sentence of eight years for 17
cases of child abuse. Lets hope he stays in jail.
But is CEOP being totally frank in its reason for backing the
Cambodian option.  Could it also not be such a convoluted case that it
would not see the light of day in the UK?  And that when British police
first prosecuted Fletcher they in fact dropped further charges in a plea