Negligent authorities let a paedophile acquitted

| 07 February 2000 22:56 IST

Menace of paedophilia is increasing in Goa, supposedly one of the most favourite destination for the international tourists, simply because the authorities are not alert enough to tackle the problem effectively.

Acquittal of Brinkmann Helmut, a German national, by the sessions court and subsequent rejection for a special leave petition by the high court is enough proof of it. Police have not even bothered to find out where the alleged paedophile is.

55-year old Brinkmann was arrested by the police in August 1998, filing a chargesheet against him for kidnapping a 12-year old boy from Bombay and harassing him sexually in a Goan hotel.

The kidnapping charge could not be proved, but Nutan Sardesai, the assistant session judge, did convict him for sexual abuse with six years rigorous imprisonment in February last year. Witnesses from taxi driver to the hotel receptionist stood by the police while Brinkmann's lawyer did not even cross-examine them.

Surprisingly, additional sessions judge D Kenkre acquitted Brinkmann in September later on, in response to the latter's appeal, on the simple ground that the prosecution had failed to prove that the accused had anal intercourse with the victim, a minor boy.

"First of all, for a child to talk about being sexually exploited is rare, consequently a child testimony needs to be given serious consideration. In such cases, circumstantial evidence should be given a lot more importance", feels Dr Nishtha Desai, a researcher.

But rather than arguing it properly, the authorities appear to have created enough grounds for Brinkmann to get scot free. It took almost three months for the government to file a special leave petition challenging the acquittal order.

When it came up for hearing last week after the vacation, the high court declined to grant special leave. To everybody's surprise, the assistant public prosecutor told the court that Brinkmann 'may have gone back' to Germany, when division bench asked about his whereabouts.

"It is virtually impossible to have the notice served on him outside the country and much less would it be possible to make the accused come back serve the sentence in case we decided to set aside the acquittal order", the court order stated.

Dr Desai does not dispute the popular principle that hundred culprits could be set free but one innocent person should not be sent to the gallows. "However, the problem is that if a single paedophile is set free by the court, it will encourage hundred paedophiles to enter the country", she fears.

In fact police needed to be more alert after arrest of Freddy Peats, who was running a child-sex ring under the fa├žade of orphanage for poor children till 1996. But the authorities preferred to call it an exceptional case and bury their heads in the sand while the menace is paedophile is increasing day by day.

"Can you imagine an Indian or an African walking through the streets of any town in Europe or America with a group of white kids, without attracting any kind of suspicion from local citizens or state authorities ? In our country and in Goa particularly, foreigners not only walk around with small children but share rooms with them, with no questions asked", quips Dr Desai.

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