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Jan Van Hecke was acquitted of molesting children because there was no evidence of compulsion

Jan Van Hecke
Jan Van Hecke

Jan Van Hecke, “All the guys I had sex with gave their consent. Yet today I am ashamed, and I do not understand how it could have come to this. When I hear myself doing that undercover report, I feel sick myself. It’s heavy to carry, but I want to make something out of it. I hope for a second chance,” he said.

The court acquitted Jan Van Hecke this morning for the most serious allegations, in particular the rape and assault of the underage boys. Jan Van Hecke had met those boys on dating sites. “So they were looking for contacts themselves. Jan Van Hecke did not force them to commit sexual offenses. When they came to see him, they knew what they were coming for,” the court ruled. The gifts that Jan Van Hecke gave the boys were also not excessively expensive so that they would feel obliged to have sex with the much older man. He bought them underpants, shoes or other clothes. At the request of Jan Van Hecke, the boys left used underpants with him.

Nevertheless, my office is of the opinion that this is about assault and rape. Due to the large age difference, there was moral pressure. He also occasionally gave them money and presents

Attorney

The court finds Jan Van Hecke guilty of viewing, downloading, and distributing child pornography. “Jan Van Hecke did not think about the suffering he caused. By viewing the child pornography, he is perpetuating unacceptable facts,” the judge ruled.

The assault on a 14-year-old boy was also proven, who could not permit due to his age. The court stated that the young man was already 15 years old at the time of sexual contact and that he was not lured to Jan Van Hecke’s home by force or by any trick.  Jan Van Hecke was present in the courtroom. He heard the verdict without any response.

A ten-year-old child

The trial is the culmination of an undercover investigation by HLN.BE together with Dutch colleague Sven van der Meulen. The Dutch journalist had pretended to be a pedophile in an online chat group and was contacted there in October 2020 by the defendant Jan Van Hecke. They spoke about their interest in teenage boys and met on July 10, 2021, in a hotel in Antwerp. Their conversation was filmed with a hidden camera.

The actor said he had already had sex with five 14-year-old boys and that he had kept their underpants. He also wanted to have sex with boys under the age of 14 and accepted the journalist’s proposal to meet a 10-year-old boy. The next day he went to the hotel room, where the boy would wait for him, but only found an adult man there.

The results of the undercover investigation were forwarded to the public prosecutor, who immediately opened a judicial investigation. During searches of the defendant, seven pairs of underpants were seized, as well as computer equipment. Nude photos of minors were found on it.

The actor had also met a man in a chat box for masters and slaves who had given him nude photos and contact details of a potential slave.

Conversations on his iPhone revealed that he had had sex with four boys, ages 14 to 17. He also asked them for their underpants. The boys stated that the sexual contact had happened with their consent. They did not feel that they were victims of abuse and that they did not represent themselves as civil parties. “Nevertheless, my office thinks that this is about assault and rape. Due to the large age difference, there was moral pressure. He also occasionally gave them money and presents,” the prosecutor said.

The actor had also met a man in a chat box for masters and slaves who had given him nude photos and contact details of a potential slave. The defendant allegedly threatened to make the photographs of that slave, who could not be identified, public if he did not want to engage in sexual acts. He is therefore also prosecuted for revenge porn and assault.

“Relationship between master and slave”

The defendant admitted to having sexual contact with the four boys and also confessed to fantasizing about having sex with a ten-year-old. His psychiatric examination shows that he suffers from a paraphilic disorder. According to the court psychiatrist, he does have insight into his problems and there is an average to the high average risk of recidivism. Treatment is indicated. The investigating judge imposed conditions on him, which he complied with well, and has already started therapy.

The defense asked for an acquittal for the assault and rape offenses because the boys had consented to the sexual contact. Only the 14-year-old could at most be sexually assaulted. There was no dispute about the possession of child pornography. Spreading was denied, as was the attacking of the ‘slave’. According to his lawyers, the tone of those conversations was part of the master-slave relationship. The nude photos were never distributed, so there was no question of revenge porn.

It was also always the journalist who contacted him again, who made proposals, convinced and reassured him. I question such form of journalism, but my client is not someone who actively went looking for it himself

Defense

The defense argued for a suspension, linked to conditions. “My client likes adolescents, a disorder he didn’t ask for and couldn’t talk to anyone about. He, therefore, looked for like-minded people in online chat groups and got carried away. It was also always the journalist who contacted him again, who made proposals, convinced and reassured him. I question such a form of journalism, but my client is not someone who actively went looking for it,” said his lawyer Walter Damen. He also asked the court to take into account all the media attention, which caused his client to publicly spit out and lose many assignments.

The court followed the defense’s explanation. Van Hecke was acquitted of raping the minors. Only the assault against the 14-year-old boy was proven, he could not permit it due to his age.

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Written by Rachita Salian

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