Paedophiles tend to reoffend, lawyers say in pushing for registry

The Southwark Crown Court confirmed that Nur Fitri was sentenced to 18 months’ jail. — File pic
The Southwark Crown Court confirmed that Nur Fitri was sentenced to 18 months’ jail. — File pic

KUALA LUMPUR, May 7 — Paedophiles are likely to repeat their crimes, lawyers say in pushing for a sex offender registry amid a high-profile child pornography case.  

Criminal lawyer Datuk Geethan Ram Vincent said studies have shown that most sex offenders, especially those who prey on children, have a tendency to reoffend.

“The registry is a form of deterrence because the offender knows his whereabouts is known by the police,” Geethan, a former deputy public prosecutor, told Malay Mail Online when contacted yesterday.

He said this database should be updated with the latest addresses of convicted sexual offenders, noting that Malaysia currently only has a general registry of the criminal records kept in the federal police headquarters with addresses that may not be updated.

London’s Metropolitan Police Service said last week that Malaysian maths student Nur Fitri Azmeer Nordin, who was studying on a MARA scholarship at Imperial College London, was found to be in possession of over 30,000 videos and photographs of child pornography and with a life-sized mannequin of a young boy in his room.

According to the Met, the 23-year-old was sentenced at Southwark Crown Court to five years’ jail on April 30 for 13 offences of possessing and making indecent images of children, as well as intent to distribute the materials.

But the London court told Malay Mail Online yesterday that the imprisonment sentence was 18 months.

Human rights lawyer Honey Tan similarly said Malaysia should have a sex offenders registry to list the convicted offenders and called for it to be made public, but urged caution in the implementation of the database.

“I believe research has shown that there is a high recidivism rate for sexual offenders. The details of how this register is to be set up and maintained should be carefully studied — we must not rush into setting one up just for the sake of having one,” she told Malay Mail Online when contacted yesterday.

Tan said Malaysia’s existing database for convicted offenders only covers offences listed in the First and Second Schedules of a 1969 law.

Citing the Registration of Criminals and Undesirable Persons Act 1969, Tan said these offences include rape, buggery with animals and carnal intercourse against nature, or Sections 376, 377, 377A and 377B of the Penal Code.

Lawyers that Malay Mail Online spoke to confirmed that Malaysian laws do not differentiate between pornographic materials depicting adults or children, with the same penalties applicable to possession or distribution of both types of materials.

Tan said Malaysia should create new offences specific to child pornography, with laws to recognise the different types of child pornography, as well as to have varying punishments to reflect the severity of different behaviours.

Noting that Malaysia’s laws were “outdated” and “ancient” with unclear phrasing such as “obscene” materials, Tan pointed out that the only available definition of “child pornography” is found in the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Code.

“Child pornography, including the depiction of any part of a minor in what might be reasonably considered a sexual context, and any written material or visual and/or audio representation that reflects sexual activity, whether explicit or not, with a minor is strictly prohibited,” Tan said, quoting the definition that she said was unenforceable, but could be a good starting point.

Criminal lawyer Datuk Hazman Ahmad suggested that a separate offence be introduced to deal with those who create pornographic materials involving children, proposing harsher penalties of up to 14 years’ jail.

“Because children are easily manipulated, they should be protected,” he said.

According to the lawyers, the three laws available to deal with pornography-related offences include Section 31 of the Child Act 2001, where sexual abuse of children is punishable by a maximum RM20,000 fine or a maximum 10-year jail term or more.

Under this 2001 law, sexual abuse covers situations where a child has taken part in activities of a sexual nature for pornographic materials or sexual exploitation.

Under Section 5 of the Film Censorship Act 2002, anyone who possesses, distributes, sells or produces obscene or indecent material is liable to a fine of between RM10,000 to RM50,000, or a maximum five-year jail term, or both.

Among other things, Section 292 of the Penal Code covers the selling, distribution and possession of obscene material, which is punishable by a maximum three-year jail term, or a fine, or both.