LONDON • A British paedophile who preyed on Christian children in an impoverished part of Kuala Lumpur was sentenced yesterday to life in prison, with a minimum term of 25 years.
Judge Peter Rook handed Richard Huckle 22 life sentences to be served concurrently after he pleaded guilty to 71 counts of child-sex offences.
Huckle, 30, held his hands together in prayer as the judge delivered his sentence, and remained impassive as his punishment was announced. A woman in the public gallery leapt to her feet and shouted "a thousand deaths is too good for you" as Huckle was led out of court.
Judge Rook said Huckle had almost certainly "blighted the lives of his victims forever".
The prolific offender has already spent 488 days in jail, so faces more than 23 years behind bars before a parole board can consider his release.
Among the admitted offences were 22 charges of rape against children he groomed while posing as a volunteer working with Christian communities in the Malaysian capital.
"Relentlessly you preyed on the very young," said Judge Rook. "You targeted and groomed impoverished children."
The sentencing was leading news bulletins in Malaysia and in one community in Kuala Lumpur that Huckle frequented, it was hailed as just.
"For doing this to the children, this is the correct (decision). Wherever the crime happened. I'm happy about the verdict," said community leader Sunderam Vadivelu.
Mr Vadivelu said Huckle often visited the community, which is a settlement for poor families displaced by construction projects in the city.
Huckle posted pictures of the abuse of boys and girls on website True Love Zone (TLZ), with the youngest victim believed to have been around six months old. He was eventually snared by an Australian investigation into the site.
British police arrested Huckle, from Kent in south-east England, at London Gatwick Airport in December 2014 as he returned home from Malaysia to spend Christmas with his parents.
He was carrying a heavily encrypted computer and camera that contained over 20,000 images of child sex abuse, over 1,000 of which showed him committing offences including rape.
The laptop contained a ledger in which he detailed the abuse of 191 victims, but officers were unable to press charges on all cases as there was no photographic evidence.
Huckle handed the judge a note before sentencing yesterday pleading for leniency. His defence argued in mitigation that he had not inflicted any physical pain on his victims, a claim the judge dismissed.
"I have been shown some of the video footage and I'm sure that your action caused immediate pain and distress," said Judge Rook. "Others were passive, having been groomed into submission."
The court heard that Huckle had written a guide to child abuse that he intended to publish for profit. Judge Rook cited a "chilling quote" from the manual, in which Huckle said "impoverished kids are definitely much easier to seduce than middle-class Western kids".
"It is a truly evil document that speaks volumes about the scale of your delusion," he said, adding that Huckle had intended this to become a commercial enterprise.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS