ARC welcomes the landmark decision by the Supreme Court, reversing a previous decision by the High Court to dismiss a case of sexual abuse against a minor. The Supreme Court decision also reinstated key parts of Article 47 of the Special Provisions Act to Deal with Sexual Abuse Offenders (Law No: 12/2009), on the standard of evidence required for cases of sexual abuse against children, which had been invalidated by a previous decision of the High Court.
Article 47 states that the standard of proof for a criminal offence stated in another law shall not apply when charges are filed under the Special Provisions Act to establish sexual offences against a child. A conviction can be reached where 5 out of 12 of the listed types of evidences in the Act is available.
The Court stated that the existence of special measures for child sexual abuse cases, including a lower evidentiary standard, is based on the fact that most such cases are built on a child’s statement. In this regard, the Court stated that a verdict can be reached if the testimony of a child is credible beyond a reasonable doubt, and that the evidentiary standards defined in Article 47 of the Act are merely resources in corroborating a child’s statement.
The Court further overturned the previous decision of the High Court, which raised the bar for standard of evidence by stating that corroborating statements by different parties cannot be considered as separate evidences for the purposes of the Law. Citing preceding cases, the Court articulated that this renders the purpose of the Law redundant, which is to lower the evidentiary standard in cases of child sexual abuse.
During Judicial Symposium 2020, ARC and Family Legal Clinic (FLC) delivered a presentation noting the challenges posed by the High Court decision, and its overall impact on the prevention of sexual abuse of children in the Maldives. ARC had previously called upon the authorities to fully reinstate Article 47 of the Act to help ensure justice for child victims of sexual abuse and hopes that this decision will further strengthen the child protection system.