Jean-Marie Beranger, 61, had been out on bail for less than one month
Kampot provincial police have arrested a 61-year-old French national accused of sexually abusing eight children aged 12 to 16, less than a month after he was released on bail by Preah Sihanouk Provincial Court, where he has been charged with abusing a 13-year-old boy, officials said yesterday.
Kampot judicial police chief In Chiva said yesterday that his officers arrested Jean-Marie Beranger in Kampot city on Friday and sent him to the provincial court for questioning Saturday.
“Police accused him of sexually abusing [children],” Mr Chiva said, before declining to comment further.
Judge Tak Kim Sea said he was aware of the arrest but that he had no details on the case.
According to Samleang Seila, country director for anti-pedophile NGO Action Pour Les Enfants, Mr Beranger left a trail of alleged abuse over the three weeks and two days since his November release stretching from Phnom Penh to Kep.
Mr Seila said that Mr Beranger allegedly abused four children aged 12 to 16 in Phnom Penh some time between Nov 28 and Dec 2, paying them $6 to $10 each. Mr Beranger then moved on to Kep, he added, where he abused four more children—all 14 years old—in the course of one night, paying them each $2 to $5.
When police arrested Mr Beranger Friday, the Frenchman was already awaiting trial at Preah Sihanouk Provincial Court, where he was arrested in September for allegedly paying a 13-year-old boy $2 to perform sex acts. Provincial court Judge Kim Eng released him on $1,000 bail Nov 11.
“This is a misdemeanor, so the suspect can ask for bail,” Judge Eng said a few days after approving the release. Judge Eng could not be reached for comment.
According to Mr Seila, Mr Beranger’s lawyer asked the court to grant his client bail for unspecified health reasons.
“In general, the most popular excuse [defendants] use is serious illness,” he said. “The practice is they release the person on bail believing they will not reoffend.”
Considering the risks of recidivism, though, Mr Seila believes the courts are granting bail too easily.
Mr Seila estimated that about 70 percent of those charged with the sexual abuse of minors and released on bail reoffend before facing trial on the original charge. Numbers are hard to confirm, he added, because many cases are dropped after the victims—choosing to settle with their alleged abusers out of court—rescind their allegations.
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