Friday, March 18, 2011

Acquittal of Britons in paedophilia case quashed

The Supreme Court on Friday restored the conviction and sentence of six-year rigorous imprisonment imposed on two British nationals who were acquitted by the Bombay High Court in a paedophilia case.

A Bench of Justices P. Sathasivam and B.S. Chauhan directed Allan John Waters and Duncan Alexander Grant to serve the remaining period of sentence. John Waters was in jail for about five years and Grant had served three years and two months.

The Bench also confirmed the conviction and sentence of three-year jail awarded by the trial court to another accused, William D' Souza, who had already served the term.

The Bench was entertaining an appeal filed by the Childline India Foundation, a project of the Union Social Welfare and Empowerment Ministry, challenging their acquittal. It dismissed the appeals filed by the accused. Writing the judgment, Justice Sathasivam pointed out that evidence clearly showed that these accused sexually abused children at shelter homes. Considering how the children at Colaba, Cuffe Parade in Mumbai and at Murud (Janjira) in Raigad district were sexually exploited, it could not be claimed that the ingredients of Section 377 (unnatural sex) of the Indian Penal Code were not proved.

The Bench said: “The sexual abuse of children is one of the most heinous crimes. It is an appalling violation of their trust, an ugly breach of our commitment to protect the innocent. It is a known fact that many children are exploited because of their poverty. They are deprived of education, made to do all sorts of work injurious to their health and personality.”

The Directive Principles of State Policy embodied in the Constitution provide a policy of “protection of children with a self-imposing direction towards securing the health and strength of workers, particularly, to see that children of tender age are not abused, nor they are forced by economic necessity to enter into avocations unsuited to their strength.” The Bench held that the High Court was not justified in acquitting all the accused by interfering with the trial court order.

The foreigners faced charges of sodomising young boys staying in the ‘The Anchorage Shelter,' set up by Grant at Colaba. The trial court sentenced them to six years' RI. On appeal, the High Court acquitted them on July 23, 2008.

In its SLP against this judgment, the Foundation said both accused were brought to India after a Red Corner Notice had been issued against them. Grant was initially traced in Tanzania and later he moved to England, and Waters was arrested from the United States. Both of them made all attempts not to stand trial, the NGO said.

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