No penalty for admitted molesterA 60-year-old man accused of molesting two sisters, aged 9 and 10, for nearly a year has been acquitted by the Seoul Western District Court, which ruled that he was mentally unsound.
The man, surnamed Noh, is a resident of Eunpyeong District in northwest Seoul, where the molestation took place. He was released following his acquittal on Monday. The court decision called Noh “unable to make decisions and distinctions between objects due to his hearing disability as well as his mental deficiency,” but called for no hospital treatment or therapy.
Prosecutors immediately filed for an appeal, arguing that Noh’s mental problems were “light.” One prosecutor said the court’s decision to “completely ignore the medical personnel’s diagnosis of the accused and set [Noh] free was unbelievable.” The source said Noh was capable of communicating because he “denied some of the sexual harassment charges, despite his lack of knowledge of sign language.”
Since October last year, when media reported that a man had received a 12-year jail term for raping and killing an 8-year-old girl in a public toilet in 2008, the public has been calling for harsher punishments for sex crimes. Now, prosecutors and the court are blaming each other for Noh’s release.
After Noh was arrested four months ago, he was released pending trial, without being put under house arrest. Prosecutors requested no electronic anklet or restraining order to keep him away from his victims, who still live in the area, 50 meters (165 feet) from his home.
An official with the Seoul Western District Court said frankly, “The prosecutors should have filed to hold Noh in custody.”
A prosecutor who worked on the case said they did not request custody because they thought “he would be found guilty for sure,” adding, “If we had guessed the court was going to rule the way it did, we would have changed the arraignment.”
One neighbor of the victims who asked not to named said, “The parents didn’t move because the prosecutors told them Noh was probably going to get at least three, or at maximum five to six years in prison.”
The sisters informed their parents that Noh was molesting them after watching the arrest of Kim Kil-tae on television in March. Kim was recently sentenced to death by a court in Busan for the rape and murder of a teenage girl in February.
Upon seeing Kim’s face, the older sister cried out in tears, “a man keeps touching us,” her mother told police.
According to the girls, Noh fondled their chests and legs in a narrow alley on their way home from school, at least twice a month - over 30 times in total - starting in July 2009. Noh initially told the police after his arrest, “I could not help myself.” The street, barely wide enough to let a car pass through, is not equipped with a security camera to this day. Neighbors expressed shock at the decision.
By Jung Seon-eon, Christine Kim [firstname.lastname@example.org]
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