Malaysians say harsher sentence needed for UK child rapist Richard Huckle

The life prison sentence imposed on British child rapist Richard Huckle was criticised as too light in Malaysia.
The life prison sentence imposed on British child rapist Richard Huckle was criticised as too light in Malaysia.PHOTO: AFP

KUALA LUMPUR (AFP) - The life prison sentence imposed on British child rapist Richard Huckle was criticised on Tuesday (June 7) as too light in Malaysia, where he sexually abused scores of children and even babies.

Huckle, 30, was sentenced in a London court on Monday to 22 life prison terms to be served concurrently, meaning he faces more than 23 years behind bars before a parole board can consider his release.

But concerns were expressed in Malaysia that Huckle could one day be freed and pose a threat to more children, as some called angrily on social media for him to be caned, castrated or executed. Britain has no death penalty.

"191 child victims, 22 Malaysians, 20,000 indecent images, 22 life sentences but... this monster could be out in 24 years," read a lengthy headline in leading daily The Star.

 

The New Straits Times said "A thousand years is not enough", echoing the cry from a woman in the public gallery as Huckle was led out of court.

Huckle had admitted a total of 71 offences against impoverished children in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur while posing variously as a Christian volunteer, a student and a photographer.

When he was arrested at London's Gatwick Airport upon returning for a Christmas holiday visit in 2014, police found that his laptop and camera contained more than 20,000 images of child sex abuse including rape.

The laptop contained a ledger in which he detailed the abuse of 191 victims, and he also wrote a manual called "Paedophiles And Poverty: Child Lover Guide".

"The sentencing should be stronger. He is young and what happens if he gets out when he is around 50? Can a paedophile change?" asked Sharmila Sekaran, chairman of Malaysia's Voice of the Children.

"Is this justice? No. As far as I know he hasn't made any apologies to the victims." Sharmila added that if Huckle were freed in his 50s many of his victims would be adults and "a lot of old wounds could come out".

The case has also stirred criticism of the lack of strong Malaysian child-protection laws.

"If Huckle was in a Malaysian court, it would have been tougher to prosecute him. It was a good thing that he was charged in the UK," said James Nayagam, chairman of Suriana Welfare Society, a child-focused NGO.

"Huckle was just one. How many more are there out there?" Prime Minister Najib Razak's younger brother, Nazir Razak, a powerful banker, posted a photo of Huckle on his Instagram account Tuesday.

"Is this enough punishment...I urge his inmates to mete out more than just retribution," he wrote.