Preah Sihanouk, Cambodia – the Court of First Instance sentenced American national Robert Hays to two years imprisonment on charges of Indecent Assault with Aggravating Circumstances against two girls. The judge also ordered Hays to pay 2 million riel compensation to each of the civil plaintiffs and his deportation at the end of the sentence. After pronouncing the verdict, the court remanded Hays in Preah Sihanouk provincial prison immediately.
Hays’ suspicious interaction with very young children alerted child protection organization APLE in 2010. At that time, he taught English to local girls, brought them home and regularly took them out for meals. Hays also unlawfully adopted a girl, who would join him to the beach to beg for money.
Four girls were initially identified and testified that they had been sexually abused by Hays. After the girls disclosed abuse, two mothers came forward to testify that their daughters had been sexually assaulted and filed a complaint with police.
A lengthy investigation was carried out by the Cambodian National Police, in cooperation with U.S. authorities, that resulted in the successful prosecution of Hays.
Despite the evidence, Hays was never put in pre-trial detention. Therefore he was able to freely access the children in the community he lived until the trial took place. Khoem Vando, Deputy Director of Field Operations, said about this:
“Hays freedom before the trial allowed him to remain in contact with the children, traumatise the families, and influence his alleged victims to change their statements. However, we welcome the decision from the judge to deport Hays after his imprisonment. ”