The Malaysian police have come under heavy fire over its handling of the case involving convicted UK paedophile Richard Huckle. Not only has concern been raised over the fact that Huckle could have abused close to 200 children in the country over a nine-year period without detection, there are also questions over when the Malaysian police were alerted by their UK counterparts about Huckle's suspected activities.
Malaysian police insist that they were only informed about Huckle by the UK's National Crime Agency in April this year. They said that the NCA did not provide any information on Huckle's case because he was on trial in the UK.
This is counter to what NCA itself has said — that it had informed the Malaysian authorities of Huckle's case in November 2014. Andrew Brennan, the Deputy Director of NCA told reporters following Huckle's sentencing on 6 June that the British authorities had informed their counterparts in Malaysia of Huckle's case in November 2014 and had shared "all the information and all of the intelligence" they had on Huckle at that time."
Brennan said: "Let me assure you we have met Malaysian authorities on a number of occasions throughout autumn of 2014. Similarly, the British High Commission in Malaysia told Reuters on 7 June that it had been engaged with the Malaysian authorities since 2014.
The Queensland Police's Taskforce Argos child protection unit had alerted the UK police on Huckle's activities during an operation targeting the encrypted part of the internet known as the Dark Web. Huckle came under the Australian police's radar during the unit's operation targeting online paedophiles.
Malaysian police earlier this week said that they had identified the 23 child victims of Huckle. The police, together with the Ministry of Women, Community and Family Development and the Health Ministry are to work together to provide aid and assistance to Huckle's victims, according to local reports.
Delay in providing help and counselling to abused children
Sharmila Sekaran, the chairman of the welfare group Voice of the Children said that there has been a delay in providing help and counselling to the abused children, especially if the Malaysian authorities were informed in 2014 and nothing was done. She said the most significant issue was the failure of the authorities to detect Huckle's behaviour over nine years.
"The fact is that from 2005 to 2014 he was here abusing our children. Why did we not know? Why did we not pick him up? We need to do some serious, honest soul-searching," she said, according to Reuters.
She added: "This was systematic rampant abuse in our own backyard - how could it have gone undetected until someone else informed us?"
Huckle was handed 22 life sentences and would serve at least 23 years behind bars for abusing 23 Malaysian and Cambodian babies and children over almost a decade. Huckle, 30, pleaded guilty to 71 offences.
More than 20 other counts of abuse were left to "lie on the file". Huckle was found with over 20,000 indecent images of children on his computer and camera when he was arrested at Gatwick Airport in 2014.
The NCA has referred itself to the Independent Police Complaints Commission after criticism that it should have done more to stop the abuse. Huckle is thought to have abused more than 200 children, mostly in Kuala Lumpur.
Huckle, who posed as a photographer, an English teacher and even a philanthropist, took photos of himself raping children, including a baby who was still in nappies. Huckle, dubbed as Britain's worst paedophile by local media, even wrote a manual about his attacks.