UK paedophile case: Minister, lawyers call for stricter child protection laws in Malaysia

Malaysian Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai.
Malaysian Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai. PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

KUALA LUMPUR (The Star/Asia News Network) - It is time for Malaysia to strengthen its child protection laws, said Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai on Monday (June 6) after British paedophile Richard Huckle was sentenced life in prison for sexually abusing children in Malaysia and Cambodia.

Datuk Seri Liow called for amendments to the Child Act 2001 so that Malaysia could start bringing child abusers to book in local courthouses.

Datuk Seri Liow, who heads the Malaysian Chinese Association, part of the ruling alliance, said current legal provisions are not adequate to deal with cases of child sexual abuse and child pornography.

"We have to make sure these cases will never happen again," he said.

Huckle, 30, had pleaded guilty to 71 counts of child sex offences, including rape of children as young as six months old.

Most of his crimes were committed during his stay in Malaysia between 2006 and 2014 as an English teacher and photographer. He was arrested in Britain in December 2014 and was dubbed the country's worst paedophile by Britain's media.

He was sentenced to life in prison by a London court on Monday and would have to serve at least 23 years behind bars for his crimes.

Malaysian lawyers said the country's laws are severely inadequate to deal with the wide range of sexual offences against children.

They noted that there are no specific legal repercussions for the act of grooming, which often makes it easier for predators to commit sexual crimes against children.

"We need to have laws that prescribe certain behaviours with children as being criminal," said Association of Women Lawyers (AWL) president Goh Siu Lin.

The definition of rape also has to be expanded beyond penile penetration in heterosexual intercourse.

According to Mr Kitson Foong, a criminal law practitioner with over 26 years of experience, Britain has very specific laws to protect children.

Apart from the comprehensive Sexual Offences Act 2003, they also have the Protection of Children Act 1978 which deals with indecent photos of children.

"It is high time that we have our own specific Sexual Offences Act, which governs and captures all forms of sexual crime against all victims," he said.