Minors suspected of gang rape of 14-year-old girl, youngest perpetrator aged 11

Minors suspected of gang rape of 14-year-old girl, youngest perpetrator aged 11
Credit: Belga

The West Flanders Public Prosecutor's Office is investigating the gang rape of a 14-year-old girl in Kortrijk, in the province of West Flanders. The perpetrators are all minors, aged between 11 and 16.

A 14-year-old girl was the victim of a gang rape that took place during the Easter holidays. The girl was allegedly lured to a bush, hidden from the houses in the neighbourhood, by her boyfriend. Here, she was abused by several of his friends, with some sources stating she was kept there for two days. She is now receiving counselling to process the violation.

Some ten suspects have been arrested, all minors, of whom the youngest is aged 11. "Because the perpetrators are so young, we are not releasing much information about their identity," said Tom Janssens of the Public Prosecutor's Office.

However, he did confirm that all suspects have been identified and arrested. They have been placed under the supervision of a juvenile judge, who has taken the necessary youth protection measures, including placement in community institutions. "The investigation is currently ongoing," Janssens told Het Nieuwsblad.

The investigation now aims to find out whether all suspects are equally at fault and whether they participated in the rape or were bystanders.

Reviewing youth justice

Three years ago, an equally violent event took place that shocked the country in a cemetery in Ghent, in East Flanders. A 14-year-old was raped by a group of young men, aged between 14 and 19, who filmed how they assaulted the victim and then circulated footage of it on social media. The girl died by suicide as a result of this violation.

The case spurred the debate of increasing the minimal penalty for sexual offences in the Flemish Parliament. The region's Justice Minister Zuhal Demir proposed that detention terms should be extended up to two years for perpetrators under 14 years of age, up to five years for those aged between 14 and 16 years, and up to seven years for offenders older than 16.

The government eventually tightened the juvenile delinquency law, heavily criticised from several angles, in June 2021. This made it possible to lock up people as young as 12 years old for longer periods when they are sentenced for rape and gang rape. Since 2022, juvenile offenders aged 16 and over who committed acts of rape or gang-related violence can be tried as adults.

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Demir again commented on the latest violation by young offenders, this time arguing that juvenile judges should more often consider extreme violence by minors as attempted manslaughter and more quickly try violent juveniles as adults.

"You simply cannot deal with this kind of violence with lower qualifications," she said. "Such scum must be taken off the streets and their parents must be held accountable. Juvenile judges should make more and full use of the recent tightening of juvenile delinquency law."

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