Phnom Penh Municipal Court has sentenced a British man to two years in prison for sexually abusing a five-year-old girl but suspended his entire sentence.
According to a statement by Action Pour Les Enfants yesterday, the municipal court on Tuesday sentenced Mark Andrew Smith, 40, to two years in prison for committing indecent assault with aggravating circumstances.
However, his entire sentence was suspended and the court ordered Mr Smith to pay a fine of about $1,250.
Mr Smith, a UK national and former deputy principal of Golden Bridge International School in Phnom Penh, was arrested in July last year as he was leaving the school.
The Interior Ministry’s Anti-Human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection Department arrested Mr Smith on suspicion of sexually abusing a five-year-old girl who studied at the school where he was working.
The alleged sexual abuse was not reported until a local radio station discussed the concerns of parents on a live programme. APLE was asked to respond right after the broadcast.
Samleang Seila, APLE executive director, said after the verdict that it was a grave concern to observe the growing incidence of child sexual abuse in private schools, orphanages and child-welfare organisations over the last few years.
“The situation is alarming and effective measures must be put in place to stop the problem,” he said.
“The lack of child safeguarding procedures at schools, for instance, and the fact that these institutions fail to conduct proper checks on their employees, can be the main factors which allow abuse to happen and persist.”
According to APLE’s statement, the organisation has dealt with numerous cases in which individuals who had already been convicted for child sexual crimes in their home country came to Cambodia to find a job and were allowed to work directly with children in various institutions.
It said these people were never asked to provide a criminal background check, which was a situation that required immediate action.
Neither Y Rin nor Suos Vithyearandy, spokesmen of Phnom Penh Municipal Court, could be reached for comment yesterday.