Figures show molesters going free

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Figures show molesters going free

An analysis by the Supreme Court of initial court rulings on 586 criminals under sexual assault charges shows that 40.4 percent of molesters of children aged 12 or younger were released on probation.

The reason for the light punishments is that the crimes are classified as complaint-based offenses and therefore subject to compromise. Regardless of how heinous the crime, the court can lower sentences if the criminal makes restitution or comes to an agreement with the victim, experts say. The Supreme Court report shows 67.2 percent of sexual criminals were released after making a deal with the victim during the first trial.

Government ministries yesterday unveiled a series of measures to strengthen enforcement of laws against child molestation, including the public disclosure of perpetrators’ personal information over the Internet.

Participants at a meeting presided over by the vice prime minister decided to open a Web site in January with details of sex offenders, including names, ages, residential addresses, physical traits, photos and types of crimes. Currently, only police have access to the information, but when the Web site goes public next year anyone 20 or older will be able to view it.

Also, the government will launch a mobile phone service that will trace the locations of students from grades one to three at elementary schools and notify their parents. People will be hired to accompany kids commuting between home and school to ease the psychological burden on parents who are both working. Currently, some 40 elementary schools nationwide operate such systems. Their implementation across all schools will be completed by the first half of next year. Up to 2,000 closed-circuit cameras will be installed around school areas nationwide by the end of next year.

The measures came after a sexual assault on an eight-year-old girl shocked the nation late last month. A man named Cho Du-sun, 57, kidnapped and brutally assaulted the girl on her way to school. She lost 80 percent of her genital organs following the attack, and Cho was sentenced to a 12-year prison term. That triggered public debate over the court’s “overly generous” rulings on sexual crimes against children.

Officials of higher courts were badgered yesterday by lawmakers at a routine inspection session concerning the issue. Roh Chul-rae, from the opposition Pro-Park United Party, said, “Koreans are venting over [the court’s] extremely weak level of punishment [on Cho]. When he dealt permanent injury to the victim, his human rights should also be permanently deprived. I wonder what the court based such a generous ruling on.” Meanwhile, the Democratic Party’s Park Young-sun asked why the court opted for 12 years when it could have decided on 15.

But Lee Jae-hong, head of the Suwon District Court that oversees the Ansan branch, which was in charge of the first ruling in the Cho case, said the ruling involved “no error” since it was made after sufficient review of related documents.

By Seo Ji-eun, Jung Hyo-sik []

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