Sask. child exploitation investigator testifies at human trafficking trial in Philippines
Cpl. Jared Clarke is used to presenting evidence of online child exploitation crimes in large courthouses containing several rooms.
Last week, he testified for four hours in a tiny room on Leyte Island, Philippines.
The Saskatchewan Internet Child Exploitation (ICE) unit officer was a key witness at the trial of a Filipino woman charged with human trafficking, accused of live streaming the sexual abuse of her children for money.
The woman is on trial along with her husband, who was serendipitously arrested two days before Clarke testified. She was one of the main suspects in the Chicoine investigation, but she isn’t charged in direct relation to it: In the court’s eyes, the entire crime must be committed in the Philippines for the offence to have taken place, Clarke said.
However, local police were able to lay human trafficking charges after the woman offered her kids up for abuse during an undercover sting. Clarke said his job was to show the woman’s pattern of offending behaviour and explain why the investigation began.
The court process was unique but cumbersome, he said. Digital evidence was shown on a projector, but every photo and online conversation had to be printed out on paper in order to be accepted. Instead of taking place over several weeks, the trial — which Clarke said is the first of its kind in the region — will run sporadically over the next two months.
On May 31, 2018, Cpl. Jared Clarke from the Saskatchewan Internet Child Exploitation Unit, teamed up with the Philippines National Police in Leyte to put smiles on the faces of children living in a rescue shelter, and their support workers.
“Hopefully we get all the evidence in and the judge can make his best decision, but the main thing is all of the children that were being abused aren’t anymore,” he said.
Clarke said the highlight of his trip was getting to visit those nine children, who are living at a rescue shelter. Shy at first, the kids lit up at the mention of a beloved local fast food restaurant, he said. He and another officer brought the kids their favourite treats the next day.
“(It) brings some closure to the case. Obviously it’s not finished in court, but a very rare and rewarding experience just seeing the good that’s been done from this work,” he said.
“It was a nice reminder of why we do what we do.”
Clarke said local police were impressed and appreciative that the ICE unit funded his trip. In this case, the host country lacked the resources to do so.
It sends an important message that people who collude with foreigners to commit online child sex crimes are held accountable, he added.
The mandatory sentence for someone convicted of human trafficking in the Philippines is life imprisonment.