BANGKOK, Thailand – A Canadian schoolteacher who pleaded guilty to sexually abusing a 13-year-old boy was sentenced Friday to 3 years and 3 months in jail in Thailand.
Christopher Paul Neil, who taught in several Asian countries, was arrested last year following an international manhunt after hundreds of photos of him allegedly engaging in sex acts with young boys were discovered on the Internet.
The Thai court also imposed a $1,780 fine on the 32-year-old man who had pleaded guilty May 12. His initial sentence of 6 years, 6 months was reduced by the court because Neil pleaded guilty.
Neil still faces similar charges, to which he has pleaded not guilty, involving the younger brother of the 13-year-old victim. In that case, he faces up to 20 years in jail for charges that include sexually abusing a minor, videotaping the alleged abuse, taking a child without parental consent, and holding him against his will.
The child who was 9 years old at the time claims Neil paid him $15 to $30 to perform oral sex in 2003. That trial resumes on Oct. 7.
"OK," was Neil's only comment to reporters after the verdict was read. His interpreter said Neil, dressed in a prison uniform and wearing ankle chains, would not appeal. After the trial, the grim-faced Canadian was taken straight to a Bangkok prison where he will serve his sentence.
Rosalind Prober, president of the Canadian child rights group Beyond Borders, said the sentence "could have been higher." But she said it was the first stage of justice for Neil, suggesting he may be tried in other Southeast Asian countries such as Vietnam.
"This is the first, baby step for Christopher Neil in terms of having him held accountable for the international sex crimes he is accused of committing," Prober said from Bangkok. "The world will be watching to see if there is the political will to continue on with this case."
Reading out the verdict, the court said Neil was guilty of sexually abusing a boy of less than 15 years of age, distributing pornographic photographs, and illegally taking a child from its parents.
During the trial, the victim, now 18, testified he went to Neil's apartment in Bangkok where the crime was committed. Photos that allegedly showed Neil engaging in sexual acts and playing with naked or partially clothed young boys were also presented.
Neil was arrested in Thailand on Oct. 19, 2007, after the international police agency Interpol unscrambled swirled digital images from about 200 Internet photos, which allegedly show Neil engaging in sexual acts with young boys. Neil admitted through his translator that he took the photos but said he did not post the pictures online.
Hundreds of tips were received and Neil was arrested 11 days after the Interpol appeal was launched.