On 18 December, 1998, Fiji and Australia signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to combat child sexual abuse, and to make it easier for police to crack down on child abusers exploiting children in the Pacific islands. This is seen as a very important and necessary bi-lateral strategy to prevent local child sex abuse and child sex tourism. Similar MOU’s between Asian and Pacific countries is required to effectively curb this growing problem.
Australian committed to trail for Fiji child sex offences
Mr Robert Marlow, 51, of Melbourne, Australia, has been committed to stand trial for allegedly sexually abusing children in Fiji. The committal hearing was held over 7 days at Melbourne Magistrates Court and included expert testimony by four Fijian boys brought to Australia for the hearing, and further testimony via video link up with child and police witnesses in Fiji.
Marlow had originally been charged with 30 offences under the Child Sex Tourism provisions of the Commonwealth Crimes Act of 1914. However, at the conclusion of the committal hearing the magistrate ordered a number of the charges to be dropped.
Marlow’s trial before a jury will commence on 10 May 1999. The Victorian is the ninth Australian to be prosecuted under the Crimes (Child Sex Tourism) Act, which was introduced in 1994 to combat the sexual abuse of children overseas by Australians. He is the first person in the world charged with offences against children in the Pacific under extra-territorial legislation. Twenty-four countries have adopted child sex tourism legislation.
Fiji Child Sex/Pornography Case Postponed
Former Brisbane resident, Mark Mutch, 41, is still awaiting trial in Suva, Fiji. Mutch is charged with 34 counts of child sexual offences. He was arrested in August 1997 after Fiji police were notified by Australian police that a computer linked to Mutch contained child pornographic images of underage Fijian girls. The postponement of the trial follows an appeal by Mutch to the Court of Appeals on a purely technical procedural point. A similar appeal to the High Court last year was dismissed. The date of the Court of Appeals hearing was initially scheduled to begin in May, 1999, but has been deferred indefinitely.
In the mean time, bail conditions for Mutch were relaxed by the Fiji High Court. The night curfew imposed on Mutch was lifted by Judge Peter Surman. Furthermore, the condition that he report to the police three times a week was reduced to once a week.
Solomon Islands – Conference on Child Protection & Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children
The Solomon Islands Family Support Centre staged the first Solomon Islands child protection conference in January, 1999. This three day conference successfully blended informative speeches with interesting and lively workshop sessions. The Conference recognised that child abuse is occurring in the Solomon Islands and action needs to be taken to address it. A series of specific recommendations for action emerged from the Conference and include:
A review of existing legislation concerning child abuse, and to amend or enact new legislation to provide full protection for children against abuse and neglect
The establishment of a child protection unit within the Police
Extensive child abuse training for all relevant Adoption of the Stockholm Agenda for Action as a framework to prevent commercial sexual exploitation (CSEC) of Solomon Island Children.
The existence of CSEC in the Solomon Islands is beyond dispute. The case of a Solomon Islands boy being brought to Australia for sexual purposes was presented to the gathering. Further, Sr. Lilian, a community worker in Honiara, discussed the increasing number of street children and prostitutes in Honiara seen in the 20 years she has worked with the Sisters. Sr Lilian told the Conference that she and the sisters have been in contact with over 100 girls under the age of 15 who are involved in prostitution in Honiara, the youngest aged 11 years. They have also been in contact with 30 boys under the age of 15, involved in prostitution in Honiara, with the youngest aged just 7 years. Rural-urban drift and family pressure are thought to be key factors contributing to the vulnerability of Solomon Island children.
End Child Prostitution, Pornography and Trafficking (ECPAT) Newsletter,
February-March, No. 51
Fiji Times, 22/4/9