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Harsher punishment urged for pedophiles

2012/01/28 | Permalink | Source

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By Lee Hyo-sik

Most citizens think that sex offenders preying on minors should be subject to harsher punishment than murderers, a survey by the Supreme Court showed Tuesday.

It said the finding reflects the growing public awareness of child sex abuse, following last year's release of a film based on a true story about sexual assaults against disabled students by teachers at a Gwangju school.

In a joint survey of 1,000 citizens and 900 prosecutors, lawyers and other legal experts, 26.1 percent said those sexually assaulting children under 13 should face more severe penalties than murderers.

About 38 percent said both sex offenders and murderers should be subject to the same level of punishment.

"Survey results indicate that people turned less tolerant toward sexual assaulters victimizing minors, following a series of high-profile rape cases involving child victims", a Supreme Court official said. "Additionally, the movie titled "Dogani", or "Silenced", released in September last year highlighted the severity of child sex abuse".

The film featured sexual assaults against hearing-impaired children by teachers and school staff at the Gwangju Inhwa School for years since 2000, causing public uproar and forcing law enforcement authorities to take belated legal action against the perpetuators.

According to the survey, 81.1 percent of legal professionals said the court should hand out a suspended sentence to sex offenders assaulting adults if they reach a civil settlement with their victims.

On the other hand, 58.2 percent of surveyed citizens said sex offenders should be put behind bars regardless of a settlement with victims or not.

The survey also showed that nearly 50 percent of citizens think men who rape step-daughters or others distantly related by blood should face imprisonment of over seven years.

But 42.1 percent of legal professionals said less than three years in jail would be appropriate for such criminals.

The Supreme Court plans to reflect the survey results in its soon-to-be-revised sentencing guidelines for sex offenses, physical assaults and other legal violations.

The nation's top court will make a final decision on the details of the sentencing guidelines at a policy-setting meeting on Jan. 30.

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