Amid efforts to strengthen laws to protect children from sexual abuse, the Supreme Court yesterday announced that effective immediately, offenses involving sexual assault on children under the age of seven will result in a minimum sentence of seven years in prison.
The ruling was made at the conclusion of a criminal courts’ conference, the highest authority on criminal matters.
The seven-year sentence will apply regardless of whether the offense is believed to have been made against the victim’s will or not, the court said.
Sexual assault on children between the ages of seven and 14 will result in sentences of three to 10 years if the act is judged to have been consensual, it said.
The Supreme Court said that the decision would set a precedent, which the Supreme Court and lower courts must follow suit.
Meanwhile, on the legislative front, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmakers agreed to prioritize a number of bills in the fall legislative session aimed at providing children with better protection against sexual abuse.
KMT caucus chief deputy secretary-general Hsieh Kuo-liang (謝國樑) said he was in favor of the proposals topping the agenda when legislators reconvene for the fall session, which is scheduled to resume on Sept. 24.
However, Hsieh, who serves as head of the Judiciary and Organic Laws and Statutes Committee, said legislators would have to spend more time deliberating on the degree of punishment for child molesters.
DPP Legislator Huang Wei-cher (黃偉哲) said the DPP caucus would prioritize a proposed amendment to the Sexual Abuse Prevention Act (性侵害防治法) to introduce a minimum of 20 years jail without parole and lifelong therapy and surveillance for offenders who abuse children under the age of 14.
The discussions came in response to a string of recent cases involving sexual assault on children that sparked public outrage after the offenders were given controversially light sentences.
In one case, a district court in Kaohsiung handed down a 38-month sentence — less than half of the sentence sought by prosecutors — for an offender on the grounds that the six-year-old victim “did not show strong will” in fighting off her attacker.
About 280,000 people have joined an online campaign on Facebook to demand that the judges in the cases be relieved.
In a separate case, the Supreme Court last week asked the Taiwan High Court to re-open the case of 55-year-old Wu Chin-yi (吳進義), who was sentenced to seven years and two months in prison by the High Court for sexually assaulting a three-year-old girl.
The Supreme Court said the High Court should consider whether Wu “had sex with a person under the age of 14” rather than committed “sexual assault” because the young girl did not resist the offender.
DPP Legislator Tien Chiu-chin (田秋堇) and KMT Legislator Yang Li-huan (楊麗環) have also proposed that the personal information of child sex predators made public after they get out of jail.