[EDITORIALS]Reliving child sexual abuseThe Supreme Public Prosecutors Office has issued a guideline for investigation of sexual assault on minors under the age of 13. A prosecutor will be designated for each criminal case involving minor victims, and when possible they will be interviewed only once. Sexually abused minors in the past have had to be present and make statements at investigation and trial sessions as many as six or seven times, a risk of human-rights violation. In that sense, we welcome the new guideline.
The Seoul District Court recently paroled a man who had been convicted of sexually abusing his 13-year-old niece. The court then subpoenaed the victim as a witness in the man’s appeal against the original conviction. The judge explained that it had released the man because he had only four months left to serve, while it would take around six months to arrange the court appearance of the victim, who is staying abroad. At this, some civic groups demanded an overhaul of the legal system, because “children could be hurt even further through repeated questioning.” Justice Minister Kang Gum-sil called the court’s decision “inappropriate,” saying it did not take into account the victim’s rights.
We have no intention to argue pro and con over a court case in progress. But we wonder why the court released a felon four months early. Apparently there is a problem with the court’s calling the victim as a witness, forcing her to relive the nightmare. It is reasonable that the prosecution criticized the court for calling the victim as a witness. Under law, if the accused disputes a statement made by an alleged victim to investigators, the statement’s veracity as evidence is impeached. If the prosecution completes procedures for the preservation of evidence, it would not be necessary to summon the victim again.
Statements made by sexually abused children should be videotaped, and only one statement should be taken. To increase credibility, counselors and experts on sexually abused victims and child psychologists must be allowed to participate. In order to prevent the statements from losing evidentiary weight, procedures for the preservation of evidence must be completed before the trial.