Teenager jailed

Girl, 14, jailed for sex with school bus driver

A 14-year-old girl was sentenced yesterday to six months in prison and deportation for having consensual sex with a 28-year-old school bus driver.

MH, a Pakistani, whom the Brazilian teenager had initially accused of raping her in her home on April 4, was also convicted at the Abu Dhabi Criminal Court of First Instance of consensual sex and sentenced to a year in prison and deportation.

All sex-related offences are tried according to sharia in the UAE. If defendants have reached puberty, according to sharia, they are tried as adults. Evidence of puberty includes facial hair for boys and menstruation for girls.

The girl's lawyers argued that although the girl was physically mature, she was not mentally mature, and was therefore a minor. They had asked that MH be charged with statutory rape.

But the court ruled that the girl was an adult, though her young age also led it to reduce her sentence to six months, a court official said.

MH was charged with rape on July 25. Prosecutors accused the girl of consensual sex after they found text messages on her mobile phone showing she had arranged the meeting and had "erotic" conversations with the man.

Prosecutors said MH visited the girl's home while her parents were in Dubai. What happened next was disputed. The girl said initially that MH raped her, but the driver said the girl invited him inside and seduced him.

The family's maid learnt about the incident and informed the girl's parents, who called police.

Prosecutors argued that it would have been difficult for MH to enter the girl's home without her consent, which meant any sex was consensual. The maid did not mention hearing any shouting or cries that could have indicated rape.

At a court hearing on July 31, the girl retracted all her claims. Both she and MH denied having sex.

Defence lawyers for each of the defendants said there was no evidence the incident ever happened. The girl had been tested at the forensic unit of the Abu Dhabi Judicial Department 37 days after the incident.

According to the UAE's juvenile law, a person older than 16 can be imprisoned for up to 10 years and minors can be considered criminally responsible after they turn seven.

In cases involving minors, if the judge does not find strong evidence against a defendant, he can "hand them to their parents" – a legal procedure in which a judge asks the family to educate their children about a certain issue.

During the trial, the teenager had been released on bail and was accompanied in court by her parents. MH was held in police custody throughout the proceedings.

The defendants have 15 days to file an appeal.

(Published by The National - August 10, 2010)

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