Phone Snatchers, Aged 14 and 15, Jailed for 18 Months

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The Phnom Penh Municipal Court on August 18, 2021 (Danielle Keeton-Olsen/VOD)
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The Phnom Penh Municipal Court has sentenced two underage phone-snatchers to a year and a half in prison after a failed attempt outside Boeng Keng Kang high school.

The two defendants, aged 14 and 15, said during their trial last week that it was their first time trying to steal a phone, and they had done it because they had seen friends doing the same.

“We saw friends do it like this, so we followed them,” the 15-year-old said.

The 14-year-old said at the time that he didn’t want to go to jail as he was doing well in class and wanted to continue school.

On Thursday afternoon, the court found the two defendants guilty of theft with the aggravating circumstance of violence, and sentenced them to 18 months in jail.

The crime carries a potential jail term of three to 10 years for adults, with sentences halved for minors under the Criminal Code. Eighteen months is the minimum sentence for minors under the charge.

In the morning, the court also heard the trial of a separate phone-snatching case.

The two defendants, Heng Kimleng, 31, and Nheu Den, 23, admitted to stealing a phone, but denied it was while the victim was riding her motorbike as this could cause a traffic accident.

Kimleng instead said that he and Den were riding around trying to find money to buy medicine for his grandmother when they saw a woman riding a motorbike in Pur Senchey district’s Choam Chao III commune with an iPhone 8 in a cubby box under the handlebars.

When she stopped and crossed the street, they took the phone, but she yelled out “thief” and people stopped and hit them, Kimleng said.

Kimleng and Den also denied accusations of using drugs, saying police had not tested their urine.

They are charged with theft with aggravated circumstances and drug crimes, and a verdict is expected on February 9.

Phnom Penh police said last week that phone-snatching was a common crime in the city, with three to four incidents happening every week.

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