Source: Today Newspaper
GREAT BAY – A 48-year old man is facing 6 months of imprisonment for having had sex with a girl of just 13. The girl became pregnant and now has his child. The court will pronounce its verdict in this remarkable case on April 26.
The court handled the trial in public on the condition that media do not mention the name of the defendant or the girl. Naming the defendant would give away the identity of the girl.
The man met the girl in March and had sex with her during their first encounter. The girl was under supervision of the court of guardianship, as she was struggling with alcohol and drug abuse.
The defendant came with a long story, saying that he had helped the girl and that she is now in a much better place; no more drugs and alcohol. ‘You are not here because you helped her,” the judge said. “Do you understand why you are here?”
“She told me she was seventeen,” the Spanish-speaking defendant said through an interpreter.
“But she was 13,” the judge noted. “If she had been seventeen you would not have been here.”
The judge asked the defendant if he planned to marry the girl that is now the mother of what must be his eleventh child. The court revealed that the defendant has ten other children in different countries.
The defendant said that he would continue the relationship if the girl would have him. That would later on during the trial not sit well with the public prosecutor, because the girl still has not reached the age of consent. She turns 16 in early September.
The Court of Guardianship brought the situation to the attention of the prosecutor’s office, after it got wind of the girl’s relationship with a much older man. It took some time to find the defendant, but in the end the Court of Guardianship managed to get his information.
“Initially the girl did not want to make a statement,” the public prosecutor said. “She says that the defendant asked her how old she was and she had said seventeen. A few months later her mother told the defendant that she was actually 13. The girl says that the sex was voluntary.”
But her pregnancy had an effect: she did not want to go to school anymore because she was embarrassed.
“The defendant says now: if I had known she was 13 I would not have gone through with it. But she is still not sixteen and he continues with the relationship.”
The prosecutor said that, based on a ruling from the court in Utrecht, that adults have a far-reaching obligation to research the age of youngsters before getting into a sexual relationship. “That the girl lied to the defendant about her age does not take away his obligation to research her real age.”
The prosecutor said that the punishable behavior continues still every day because the defendant and the girl live like man and wife. “Following the advice of the Court of Guardianship by giving this defendant a conditional sentence goes against the law,” the prosecutor said. “This defendant has little insight in what he has done.”
Attorney Geert Hatzmann was shocked by the demand for a 6-month prison sentence. “I have never before disagreed with a prosecutor so fundamentally,” he said. He referred for context to two cases of ill-treatment whereby the prosecutor’s office (so far) did nothing and let the perpetrators walk around free.
“This dossier is evident and we know the legal margins,” the attorney said, adding that he found the role of the Court of Guardianship “weird” because it has filed a complaint.
“The girl wants my client to come home as soon as possible and she has had sex with older men before. She does not feel a victim. Then why would we talk her into that role? My client has made a mistake but he does have a positive influence on the girl. The obligation to research her age is not realistic. I have seen a picture and she does not look like 13 at all.”
Hatzmann asked what the prosecutor’s objective is with the case. “The girl is off the drugs and the alcohol. Should this family now fall apart? It is not opportune to prosecute my client. Who are we to tell this girl that this is bad? Or tell the child that it is the product of a crime?”
Hatzmann asked the court to declare the prosecution inadmissible and, if that does not work, to acquit his client. “Technically it is a punishable act, but they live like man and wife, they are happy. A punishment should be at least wholly conditional.”
The word happy did not go down well with the prosecutor. “Happy? She is dependent on this man. She does not want her mother to take care of the baby, she wants him to pay for it.”