On May 11, 2018, an appellate court in Bà Rịa-Vũng Tàu Province reviewed the verdict of the lower court in a child molestation case and reduced the sentence for the convicted, from a three-year prison term to 18 months sentencing with no actual jail time.
People became outraged as soon as the appellate verdict came out.
Some are particularly critical over one of the mitigating factors considered by the appellate court: the convicted person is a member of the Vietnamese Communist Party whose dedications and contributions to his profession in the banking field was noted.
According to Vietnam’s 2015 Penal Code, Article 51(v), any person convicted of a crime (not necessary VCP members), who could demonstrate past dedications and contributions in their professional capacity, may receive considerations for a mitigating factor.
Thuỷ, 78-year-old, was initially been convicted of multiple charges, involving different victims. However, the appellate court dismissed all but one conviction against him, citing insufficient evidence for the rest. Couple with his past contributions, his elder age also played a role in his reduced sentence.
But the people are not convinced, and they quickly showed their disagreement on social media.
Child molestation, like child sexual abuse and even sexual harassment, has recently earned public awareness in Vietnam, where more victims are willing to speak out against it, and the public strongly demands perpetrators are appropriately prosecuted.
Thus, the recent appellate decision in Nguyễn Khắc Thuỷ’s case is seen by many as if the court has taken a step backward and against the momentum to raise awareness about sexual abuse crimes in society.
The Association for Children’s Right Protection of Hochiminh City (Hội bảo vệ quyền trẻ em TP Hochiminh) also condemned the court’s decision.
Attorney Trần Thị Ngọc Nữ – Head of the association – commented in a conversation with Kenh 14 news: “a person who was convicted of any crimes, especially crimes against children, shall not receive a sentence with no actual jail time.”
The People’s Supreme Procuracy Office of Bà Rịa-Vũng Tàu Province also confirmed with Người Lao Động newspaper on May 13, 2018, that their office had submitted an urgent report to their superiors in Hochiminh City regarding their concerns over the appellate court’s decision.
A trial of cessation would be the next step in the case, and the public’s close monitoring of this matter could mean that the judicial authorities may take it up for further review.
In the past two days, a petition was created in on Change.com where people request a higher court’s review of the case. It has managed to receive over 8,000 signatures and still being shared widely on social media in Vietnam.