A German court has sentenced the first suspect in a major child abuse case that prompted a change in the country's pedophilia laws. He admitted to being part of a group that sexually abused two boys over several days.
A regional court in the German city of Münster on Friday sentenced a 53-year-old man to 3 years and 3 months in prison for grievous sexual abuse against a child.
Prosecutors said the man, from Germany's northernmost state of Schleswig-Holstein, had traveled to Münster to abuse a 9-year-old boy last August. The court heard that the man admitted his guilt and gave evidence against other suspects in the case.
Because of the admission, the victim had not needed to testify in court. This, the court said, was part of the reason for the mitigation, as well as the fact that he paid compensation of €10,000 ($11,900) for pain and suffering caused to the victim.
Prosecutors had called for a three-and-a-half-year prison term, with the defense asking for an "appropriately lenient sentence."
Four other men are separately in the dock as part of the same case, along with a woman accused of complicity.
The men are suspected of grievous abuse of children, including the son of the girlfriend of the 27-year-old main defendant, a computer technician. He is accused of enticing visitors to abuse the boy, and repeatedly doing so himself.
In one instance, the main defendant is believed to have trapped two boys in a garden summer house in April, along with three male accomplices. The suspects are alleged to have drugged and sexually abused the boys repeatedly over three days.
Prosecutors say they have 30 hours of video evidence.
The man is said to have been in contact with the other individuals, from the German states of Hesse, Lower Saxony, and Brandenburg, via the internet. The four are accused of offences including rape and grievous bodily harm between 2018 and May this year.
The chief defendant's mother, a 45-year-old woman who owns the summer house, is believed to have been aware of the abuse. She is charged with aiding and abetting the crimes.
Investigators said they have identified two victims other than the defendant's partner's son — a 5-year-old and a 12-year-old.
The defendants are among 11 people who were arrested in the case in June this year. At least 22 other people are also under investigation. Detectives found the IT specialist allegedly in possession of 400 terabytes of pedophile material. The trial is expected to last until February.
The case was one of several similar horrific revelations that rocked Germany this year, prompting a tightening of legislation.
Earlier this month, the German Cabinet agreed stricter penalties for using and sharing images of child abuse with the maximum prison sentence for offenders to increase to 15 years from 10.
rc/jlw (dpa, epd)