Austria will adopt tougher laws on sex crimes, following the case of Joseph Fritzl (photo, from Le Figaro), said the country’s chancellor.
According to chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer, the aim of the new measures is to prevent children from becoming victims of abuse.
“In the question of violence against children, there can be no compromises” he said, adding that convicted sex criminals should not be allowed to either adopt children or work with young people.
Mr Gusenbauer said that criminal records of sex offenders would be held on file for far longer than they are now.
Joseph Fritzl was convicted of rape in 1967, and sentenced to a term in prison.
But under current Austrian law, unless the crime carries a life sentence, a conviction must be removed after no more than 15 years.
Therefore Mr Fritzl was officially allowed to become responsible for the care of three of the seven children he fathered with his daughter, Elisabeth. He adopted one child and fostered two more.
Police too easily fooled
The time limit for offences to remain on the record would now be lengthened to 30 years, and serious offences would remain permanently, said the chancellor. If approved, the measures are expected to come into effect early next year.
Maria Berger, Austrian justice minister, said earlier that the police had been too easily fooled into accepting Mr Fritzl’s account that his daughter ran away to join a cult.
She told Austria’s Der Standard newspaper: “Looking at everything that we know up to now, I can see a certain gullibility – especially when it comes to that tale that she had joined a sect, with which the suspect explained the disappearance of his daughter.”
Maria Berger said if such an account was presented to the authorities today, it would have been more closely examinated.
Meanwhile, for the first time since he was arrested 10 days ago, Mr Fritzl talked to prosecutors. A spokesman said the meeting was about his personal history, but not the allegations against him.
During the interview, that lasted about an hour-and-a-half, the spokesman said Christiane Burkheiser, investigating prosecutor, had described the suspect as “co-operative” during the interview.
The next meeting would not take place for at least another two weeks, said the spokesman.