LONDON: A British paedophile who preyed on Malaysian children in an impoverished part of Kuala Lumpur was sentenced on Monday to life.
Judge Peter Rook handed Richard Huckle 23 life sentences to be served concurrently after he pleaded guilty to 71 counts of child sex offences.
He faces a minimum jail term of 23 years.
Huckle, 30, held his hands together in prayer as the judge delivered his sentence, and remained impassive when his punishment was announced.
A woman in the public gallery leapt to her feet and shouted “a thousand deaths is too good for you” as Huckle was led out of court.
Rook said Huckle had almost certainly “blighted the lives of his victims forever”.
The prolific offender has already spent 488 days in jail, so faces more than 23 years behind bars before a parole board can consider his release.
Among the admitted offences were 22 charges of rape against children he groomed while posing as a volunteer working with Christian communities in the Malaysian capital.
“Relentlessly you preyed on the very young,” said Rook. “You targeted and groomed impoverished children”.
Huckle posted pictures of the abuse of boys and girls on website True Love Zone (TLZ), with the youngest victim believed to have been around six months old.
He was eventually snared by an Australian investigation into the site.
British police arrested Huckle, from Kent in southeast England, at London Gatwick Airport in December 2014 as he returned home from Malaysia to spend Christmas with his parents.
He was carrying a heavily-encrypted computer and camera that contained over 20,0000 images of child sex abuse, over 1,000 of which showed him committing offences including rape.
The laptop contained a ledger in which he detailed the abuse of 191 victims, but officers were unable to press charges on all cases as there was no photographic evidence.
Huckle handed the judge a note before sentencing on Monday pleading for leniency and his defence argued in mitigation that he had not inflicted any physical pain on his victims, a claim the judge dismissed.
“I’ve been shown some of the video footage and I’m sure that your action caused immediate pain and distress,” said Rook. “Others were passive, having been groomed into submission.”
The court heard that Huckle had written a guide to child abuse that he intended to publish for profit.
Rook cited a “chilling quote” from the manual, in which Huckle said
“impoverished kids are definitely much easier to seduce than middle-class Western kids”.
“It is a truly evil document that speaks volumes about the scale of your delusion,” he added.
In a letter of remorse read at an earlier hearing, Huckle acknowledged “the scale of the damage I have caused”.
“I completely misjudged the affections I received from these children.
“My low self-esteem and lack of confidence with women was no excuse to be using these children as an outlet.”
He said he was “gullible to be easily influenced” by the “pathetic, perverted lust of those who drew me into the dark net”. – AFP
* R v Richard Huckle
Full judgment by Judge Peter Rook QC at the Old Bailey.
Please note, graphic content.
1) You have pleaded guilty to as many as 71 sexual offences. It is very rare indeed that a judge has to sentence sexual offending by one person on such a scale as this.
2) 23 young children have been victims of your offending. Of course they all have a statutory right to lifelong anonymity. Furthermore, as editors and reporters all know there must be no publication of any material which is likely to lead to their identification. With the help of counsel including counsel for the Press Association and various newspapers I have provided guidance as to the areas which in my view if published are likely to lead to identification when considered with other matters in the public domain. A list of those matters is available from my clerk and from the Judicial Press Office.
3) You are just 30 years old. You are a UK national. You have had the benefit of education in this country.
4) You say that in your youth you did not feel that you belonged in England. You travelled to and resided in Malaysia (actually migrating there in 2010) where you committed sexual offences of the utmost gravity.
5) You did this on occasions over a period of 9 years between March 2006 and December 2014. They were all in Malaysia apart from the first incident
(Count 70) when you abused a 2 year child when visiting Cambodia.
5) Relentlessly, you preyed upon the very young - pre-pubescent vulnerable children from a minority ethnic community into which you ingratiated yourself. This was a prolonged campaign of rape of the children from a small community.
6) One of the most aggravating features of this case is that you targeted and groomed impoverished children and their families in a poor community – no doubt seeking to impress them with your relative wealth and status as a Westerner. That community was particularly vulnerable because of its poverty.
7) Whilst you presented yourself to the outside world as a legitimate student, photographer, English teacher and philanthropist who could help with the education of the children, in fact you were systematically abusing the children you claimed to care about. In particular you duped the families of your victims by posing as a respectable English teacher.
8) Your offending behaviour became entrenched in your everyday life. Your life revolved around your sexual activities with young children. Your distorted beliefs in respect of children are deep-seated. Your self-delusion knows no bounds.
9) You were and are sexually obsessed with children. You have spent years abusing them. In one of your postings you stated that you had become consumed by your paedophila. It is clear from your postings on hidden encrypted paedophile websites on the dark web, and from the manual you were in the process of drafting that your life revolved around your obsession with your own sexual gratification by child sex abuse. It is also clear that, had you not been arrested, you planned to continue the same life-style using the expertise that you were keen to show off to and share with other abusers so as to continue your sexual exploitation of the children of such communities. You even spoke of embarking on a sham marriage to give you access to foster children.
10) There has been widespread media coverage of this case in advance of sentence. I make it clear that you are only being sentenced upon matters that have been placed before me during the sentencing hearing. The first incident on the indictment took place in March 2006 when you sexually abused a 2 year old child when on a visit to Cambodia. In the years that followed , having inveigled your way into a poor community in Malaysia, you embarked on your campaigns of abuse on the very young.
11) The scale and nature of your sexual abuse of young children is a cause for deep concern.
(i) Some of the children were very young at the time. Count 72 relates to a baby 6 months old. In respect of 2 counts ( 29 and 86) the children were aged 1 . There are 6 counts where the child were aged under 5.
(ii) Some of the children were abused for years. (Child A from age of 3 until 10 2007 to 2014 Counts 1 to 9, Count 11; Child B from age of 5 to 12 2006 to 2013 Counts 12 to 16,  and 18 to 21, and 24). It is clear that you practised your insidious grooming upon these children and some became conditioned to meet your sexual demands.
(iii) Your abuse spans almost 9 years, and you were planning to continue the same life-style on your return to Malaysia when after your Christmas with your parents in this country.
(iv) In respect of some of the children you were trusted with the children by their parents and/or those responsible for their care and so your conduct was a gross breach of trust.
(v) your offending includes 22 offences involving penetration.
(vi) A large number of the other sexual assaults (whilst not involving penetration) fall into that serious category of case where you would place your erect penis against the child’s genitals.) A significant number of the sexual assault counts are multiple incident counts. Some involved additional humiliation and degradation as demonstrated by your act of urinating on a naked child ( Count 59.) One count relates to the sexual touching of a baby’s genitals.
(vii) on occasions you encouraged children to abuse one another or to be present whilst you abused a child. (see Counts 3, 7, 9, 25).
(viii) You encouraged children to introduce you to other children
(ix) Frequently you ejaculated upon a number of your victims.
(x) You were able to manipulate where some of the children would be staying
(xi) your abuse included children from the same families.
(xii) You created your own score card and ledger in which you recorded your activities.
12) I come to your activities photographing and/or filming your own abuse of these children. I regard this as a serious aggravating feature.
13)There came a stage when you posted details of your abuse on the hidden internet making it appear that you were in India.
14) You became prolific in terms of posting indecent images. You would take photos of your own abuse, edit and upload moving images and graphic details of your exploits to a paedophile network on the hidden network on the “dark web.”
15) It is inevitable that your photos will have been shared with other paedophiles as they were subjected to uncontrolled world wide distribution.
16) Your postings on paedophile websites shed light on your conduct. At one stage, you made the chilling observation that “impoverished kids are definitely much easier to seduce than middle class Western kids.” You posted items referring to the legitimacy of paedophilia describing paedophiles as an unfairly repressed minority.
17) You encouraged other abusers to commit sexual offences against children providing expertise based on your long experience as to how to abuse children without detection. To use you own words, you were the backbone behind the preparation of a paedophile manual, the subject matter of count 90, publishing draft versions. I am satisfied that you initiated it and designed it. You criticised an earlier guide and wanted to replace it with your version. You were preparing to distribute this manual on a paedophile bulletin board on the dark web and you distributed or published draft versions for a period.
18) Count 90 The manual is a truly evil document proseletysing paedophilia.. I do not propose to rehearse its content in these sentencing remarks. Suffice it to say that it speaks volumes about
(i) the scale of your self-delusion describing your conduct as child love and as helping the needs of impoverished families .
(ii) how you felt you had developed an expertise in grooming
(iii) your own methodology including how best to form intimate relationships with children and advice on penetration.
(iv) your desire to impart your experiences to other abusers to encourage them to abuse children without detection.
(v) and in particular your desire to encourage child sex tourism by others, in particular white Western males from developed countries.
19) Profit Count 52 You sought to profit from your own abuse by posting footage of your sexual activity with a 3 year old girl on a separate , equally depraved website, in return for bitcoins, a virtual currency. You posted images of your own crimes on a website called “pedo funding” on which you sought to sell your own footage of your own crimes to other abusers. You made numerous posts on the dark web promoting this venture. I am satisfied that you intended this to become a commercial enterprise which you would have tried to expand had you not been arrested.
20) Own devices (apart from dark web) Your abuse was not limited to what you posted on the dark web. You were arrested on 19th December 2014 at Gatwick airport when you were returning to the UK for a family Christmas. You were found in possession of computers, camera and a phone which contained indecent images of children being abused by you.
21) In all more than 20, 000 indecent images were found on your computer. Over 1000 were images/ videos of children you had, in fact, yourself abused.
22) Ledger or score card In an encrypted space on your own computer, you had a hidden ledger in which you catalogued your extensive sexual crimes against children from November 2013. You refer to abuse of 191 children over a period 2006 – 2014. On the ledger you recorded the extent of your abuse giving yourself points for achievements in 15 categories. You have pleaded G to counts based on your ledger Counts 57, 75, 78, 80, 81, 83, 85 – 89. That clearly shows that, on any view, a substantial number of these entries were not fantasy as you had earlier sought to claim.
23) You were arrested in December 2014 when you were returning to this country. To date, you have refused all requests and failed to reveal the passwords to the protected files on your laptop. Experienced investigators have not been able to access the material as it is so heavily encrypted.
24) There is a clear inference that that numerous further indecent images are on these files as some are titled with the pseudonym of one of your victims. Clearly this is relevant to the issues of level co-operation and remorse in your case.
25) You have co-operated to the extent that you assisted in the closing of your own Flickr website, but you have not co-operated in respect of these heavily encrypted files.
26) Penetrative offences
All of your offending is very grave. Of the 71 counts to which you eventually pleaded guilty, 10 involve the penile penetration of the vaginas of young children.
Counts 5, 7, 15, 21, 33, 34, 47, 53, 54, and 66
5 involve the digital penetration of the vagina
Counts 4,6,8,46, and 47
3 involve the penile penetration of the mouth.
Counts 14, 18 and 20.
3 involve causing a child under 13 to engage in penetrative sexual activity
Counts 9, 19, 60
1 involves oral penetration of the vagina
26) In some cases the children were as young as 3 (Counts 46/47/ 53/54) or
5 (Count 6.) In some cases the abuse lasted for many years. (Children A/ B.) Others such as Child G aged 3 you had identified as a target for long and protracted abuse, and you were advertising material in respect of her on the dark web.
27) It has been argued that the penetration was minimal/ and the children did not suffer physical harm or distress.
28) I have been shown in court some of the video footage upon which the penetration counts upon the indictment are based. I am sure from your footage that your actions did cause immediate pain and distress to some whilst others appear passive and groomed into submission. (see, for example, Counts 4,8, 46, and 66.) As if it needed to be confirmed, you were aware of that as is demonstrated in a passage in the manual you were composing.
29) Furthermore, after observing the video footage upon which some of these counts are based, I have no hesitation in rejecting your claim that there was no more than minimal penetration by your erect penis of your victim’s vaginas. I am sure that there was significant penetration which in some cases was for prolonged periods. In any event, any penetration of a small child is particularly serious.
30) Some of the images also reveal the extent you would groom your victims.
31) Mitigation I have been referred to a file which contains the defence submissions and a recent letter you have written to your solicitors.
I am invited to take into account (i) your pleas of guilty (ii) your previous good character (iii) your age and (iv) your claim that you are now deeply remorseful and regretful.
32) A principle underpinning the sexual offences guidelines is that previous good character amounts to very limited if any mitigation in grave cases. In the light of the nature and scale of your offending it cannot provide any significant mitigation in your case.
33) In any event your offending started when you were 19 and continued for nearly 9 years. Your counsel says that you lost touch with the reality of just how serious your offending was. In England you had felt socially withdrawn and isolated. In contrast, the people in the communities that you abused were respectful towards you. You betrayed that respect. As an educated young man you must have appreciated just how grave your conduct was. Furthermore, I cannot accept that you genuinely felt that your activities were not causing incalculable harm.
34) You are now 30. You are a mature adult. I cannot treat you as though you were an immature youth. Your conduct appears to have been escalating.
35) Your claim to genuine remorse sits unhappily with your conduct since arrest. I take into account:
(a) the lateness of your pleas
(b) your continued attempts even at the 11th hour to minimise your culpability and to excuse the inexcusable and to justify the unjustifiable.
Professor Grubin, the Consultant Forensic Psychiatrist who assessed you during the last few weeks, notes your tendency to blame others for your distorted thinking and to minimise the business aspects of your offending.
Brett Rafferty, the author of the pre-sentence report, found evidence of your thought processes minimising the comparative impact of your behaviour by normalising it. He also found that you struggled to acknowledge the serious harm you had caused and you tried to minimise behaviour by citing the influence of others.
(c) your refusal to reveal the passwords to enable access to heavily encrypted space upon your laptop.
36) In my view you may well harbour feelings of regret, but there is no genuine remorse in this case.
37) I have no doubt that the seriousness of all the offences which carry a maximum of discretionary life sentence are such as to justify the imposition of concurrent life sentences reflective of the public abhorrence of your offending.
38) In any event, looking at all the information before me, I have to consider whether you pose a significant risk of serious harm to the public from the commission of further specified offences.
39) I have no hesitation in reaching such a conclusion. There is no escaping from the stark and profoundly disturbing facts of this case. The evidence in this case points in only one direction. For an indefinite period you will represent and continue to represent a very high risk to children of serious sexual offending. Outside a custodial setting you will pose a significant risk for many years to come.
40) I have reached this conclusion for the following reasons:
(a) the scale and nature of your offending
(b) your continued and continuing sexual obsession with young children.
(c) your own record of your exploitation and abuse on the ledger.
(d) your deep-seated distorted beliefs as evidenced by your pronouncements on the dark web and your contributions to the manual.
(e) you clear desire to encourage others to commit similar offences.
(f) your clear desire to profit from your offending
(g) the consultant psychiatrist Professor Grabin’s report in which he identifies high static and dynamic risks in your case both in respect of contact offences and online offending.
(h) the pre-sentence report by Brett Rafferty where his considered view is that you pose a very high risk of serious harm to children.
41) You have indicated a willingness to explore your offending behaviour and co-operate with relevant interventions such as Sexual Offender Treatment programmes whilst you are serving the inevitable long sentence you will receive. You say in your recent letter, you are eager for rehabilitation. It will to your advantage to show that this truly is the case. However, notwithstanding this, for the reasons I have set out in paragraph 40, I have no doubt that you will remain a substantial risk for an indefinite period. Ultimately it will be a decision for the Parole Board as to whether it is safe to release you into the community once you have served minimum sentence.
42) I come to the length of the minimum sentence you must serve before the Parole Board can consider whether it is safe to release you back into the community.
43) I propose to pass life sentences on all 23 counts which carry a maximum of life sentence. The concurrent minimum sentences that I will pass will reflect all 71 of the offences to which you have pleaded guilty. It is for that reason that I will pass concurrent determinate sentences in respect of the other 48 counts.
44) Sentencing Council Guidelines Mr Brian O’Neill QC, on behalf of the prosecution , submits that your offending amounts to sexual offending of such exceptional gravity (including campaigns of rape against 5 children) that I should depart from the Sexual Offences Definitive Guideline. He argues that your offending goes beyond anything envisaged by the Council.
45) Your counsel, Mr Philip Sapsford QC, has invited me not to depart from the Sentencing Council guidelines. He has referred me to s.125 of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 and contends that I cannot be satisfied that it would be contrary to the interests of justice to follow the guidelines.
46) I have no hesitation in reaching the conclusion that the scale, length and depravity of your offending takes it outside the guidelines, and it would be contrary to the interests of justice for the court to be confined by the ranges set out in the guideline.
47) In any event the rubric that appears at step one of the guideline for s.5 SOA 2003 indicating that offences may be of such severity, for example involving a campaign of rape, that sentences of 20 years and above may be appropriate.
This case involves a number of different campaigns of rape. It also has all the multiple aggravating features that I have identified in paragraph 12.
48) In this case both harm and culpability are extreme. There are no victim impact statements in this case as the prosecution have presented the case on the basis of the images and videos found on your laptop. This has enabled the case to be presented without risking adding to the trauma of your victims by interviewing them so that they have to re-live their experiences. However given the extreme youth of the children you abused and the vulnerability of both he children and their community , I have no doubt that your offending has caused or is very likely to cause severe psychological harm to them as they become old enough to appreciate the enormity of what you have done to them (even more so if they ever appreciate that your abuse of them has been distributed on the dark web.) There is strong likelihood that you have blighted their lives for ever.
49) I have to also bear in mind that I am dealing
(i) with multiple offences over a long period on young and very vulnerable victims
(ii) in respect of the sexual assaults and the taking of indecent photograph offence, there are 18 multiple incident offences. There are 31 counts of sexual assaults (6 are multiple incident.) There are 13 offences in respect of the taking the very many photographs and videos of this activity (and in one case making) photographs. (these are all multiple incident.)
50) I also regard the advertising of indecent photographs of a child (Count 52), and the creation of the paedophile manual (count 90) as adding 2 further very grave dimensions to your criminality.
51) In my view, the starting point reflecting your overall criminality, such limited mitigation as there is and making allowance for the principle of totality, should be 60 years.
52) I must then make appropriate allowance for the pleas of guilty that you eventually tendered to 71 counts.
53) At the Pleas and Case Management Hearing on 25th January 2016, you pleaded not guilty to all counts on the indictment. You served a case statement putting the prosecution to proof on all matters. For case management reasons 3 separate jury trials that would have lasted many weeks were fixed. The first trial was fixed for 10th April .
54) You were re-arraigned on 19th February, 4th March and 18th March entering pleas of guilty to 43 counts.
55) On 12th and 13th April you entered pleas of guilty to 28 further counts. The prosecution then indicated that they would not seek a trial of the outstanding matters.
56) Your pleas of guilty to those 28 counts only came after process of jury selection had begun. Amongst those counts were 10 offences involving allegations of penetration and a number of serious sexual assaults based on your ledger
57) Mr Sapsford in written (see paragraphs 8 to 33 of the defence document entitled ‘mitigation’) and oral submissions invites me to take various factors into account when assessing the appropriate discount for your pleas of guilty.
58) Correctly he observes that it has saved juries from having to view any of this material. It is a relief to all those who have worked on this case that juries have not had to endure distress and trauma watching the explicit material.
59) He puts forward the following further factors for my consideration in the context of my assessment of the reasons for the need for 5 further arraignments:
(i) the destabilising effect upon the defendant during a period when there were issues about his representation
(ii) the difficulties experienced by lawyers in obtaining access to Belmarsh so as to be able to spend significant time with the defendant.
(iii) the need for an authorised officer to operate the computer so that the footage could be shown to the defendant.
(iv) the defendant’s acceptance of sexual touching (if not penetration) significantly in advance of trial in respect of many of the counts.
(v) the complexity of the case
(vi) the Crown’s decision to rely upon an expert at trial.
60) Even making due allowance for the difficulties in obtaining instructions, it remains clear that that pleas of guilty were not offered at the earliest reasonable opportunity.
61) I am quite satisfied that you had ample opportunity to observe the footage and with the benefit of legal advice to enter appropriate pleas by the time of the PCMH. The footage upon which the counts are based was shown to you in interview. It was shown to you at Lewes prison. I am told that the officer authorised to show the material attended on at least 5 occasions when the case was listed for full days at this court in late 2015 to enable your instructions to be taken by your legal advisors.
62) Quite apart from matters which are self-evident from the footage, you were well aware of the nature of your own offending which you catalogued. In my view the Crown’s decision to call expert evidence when it was appreciated what the issues would be at trial does not justify and thought was given to presentation, does not justify further delay.
63) It follows that all the pleas of guilty in this case were entered late. I acknowledge that the 48 February and March pleas were in advance of trial. They enabled the outstanding matters
(which included some of the most serious counts) to be re-joined into one indictment. A jury still had to be selected before the final 28 pleas were entered.
64) Even during the sentencing hearing, you were less than open and claimed through your counsel that penetration was minimal. The author of the pre-sentence report concluded that you are still not in full acknowledgement of the scale of your offending.
65) I accept that I should, to some small extent, give a discount greater than the 10% that is appropriate when a plea is entered at the day of trial. I have considered the timing of the various pleas in arriving a figure to be applied in respect of all counts. I have concluded that an allowance of approximately 15 % is a fair reflection of the overall position in respect of your pleas.
66) I have applied a little more than 15% to 60 (in fact 1/6) thereby reducing that figure to 50. That must be halved to 25 years to reflect that this will be time you will actually serve. From that must be subtracted the 488 days you have served leaving a figure of 23 years 242 days.
67) The sentence upon counts 4, 5, 6,7, 8, 9, 14, 15, 16, 18, 19, 20, 21, 31, 33, 34, 46, 47, 49, 53, 54, 60, 66
LIFE IMPRISONMENT with a minimum term of 23 years and 242 days.
All those sentences will run concurrently to each other and to the determinate sentences that I propose to pass in respect of the other counts upon this indictment.
68) For the avoidance of doubt the minimum term reflects your total criminality revealed by all the counts on the indictment to which you have pleaded guilty.
69) It follows that had I not been passing the 23 life sentences and reflecting the totality [OF ALL YOUR CRIMES] in the length of [the] THOSE minimum terms, the sentences in respect of the other counts would have been structured differently with consecutive terms where appropriate.
69) I come on to the 31 sexual assaults. I pass a sentence of 10 years (concurrent) upon each. ( Counts 2, 13, 92, 25,26, 93, 30, 32, 94, 38, 95, 96, 50, 51, 55, 56, 57, 61, 97, 70, 72, 75, 78, 80 ,81, 83, 85, 86, 87, 88, 89.)
70) I turn to the counts relating to the taking of indecent photographs. ( Counts 11, 24, 28, 37, 42, 45, 59, 64, 67, 69, 71, 76.)
7 years imprisonment (concurrent) upon each. Similarly 7 years imprisonment (concurrent) in respect of the making of indecent photographs (Count 91.)
71) That leaves (i) Count 90 which covers the writing of the paedophile manual charged under s.14 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 (arranging or facilitating the commission of child sex offences.) 11 years concurrent.
(ii) Count 52 in respect of advertising indecent photographs of a child aged 3. 8 years concurrent.
72) You must understand that you will serve a minimum of 23 years 242 days before the Parole Board will be entitled to consider whether it is safe to release you back into the community. No doubt in the light of your history and your entrenched distorted thinking the Parole Board will consider with particular care whether it is safe to release you.
73) As a result of your convictions (i) the notification provisions will apply in your case for life and (ii) your name will be included in both the Children’s Barred List and the Adults Barred List.
There will be a victim surcharge of £120.
74) I have already made numerous orders under S5(6) of the Protection of Children Act 1978 and s.143 (1) of the Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000 in respect of the forfeiture of photographs and equipment. They are set out in a schedule.
Central Criminal Court
6th June 2016