SINGAPORE: A construction worker who raped a 12-year-old girl three times at a reservoir after sexually grooming her was sentenced to 22 years' jail and 18 strokes of the cane on Friday (Apr 12).
Das Ratan Chandra, a 41-year-old Bangladeshi, was several times the girl's age when he first met her on an MRT train in February 2017.
The girl, whose identity is protected by a gag order, was with her grandparents on the North-South Line on the way to her younger stepsister's birthday celebration on Feb 5, 2017.
During the journey, Chandra noticed the girl and glanced at her repeatedly, said Deputy Public Prosecutor Winston Man.
He followed the girl and her grandparents when they alighted at Choa Chu Kang MRT station. He wrote down two telephone numbers on a piece of paper and passed it to the girl, without her grandparents noticing.
The girl called Chandra that day and they began chatting via SMS, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger.
RAPIST LIED ABOUT HIS AGE, GROOMED VICTIM
Chandra, who knew the girl was 12, lied to the victim that he was only 25 years old, even though he was 38 at the time.
Despite the girl telling him her age, Chandra began initiating sexual conversations with her, sending obscene photographs to her and asking her to send some of herself.
Even though she was initially reluctant, the girl eventually gave in and sent the older man explicit photos of herself.
Chandra's grooming of the girl progressed to conversations about sex acts. They met for sexual activities at least five times between February and April 2017 and had sexual intercourse on three of these occasions.
The child lost her virginity to the father of two on Mar 26, 2017, in a forested area in Lower Peirce Reservoir Park on a blue canvas mat that the man had brought along.
She bled and felt pain, but they had sex again on Apr 2 and Apr 23.
VICTIM'S MOTHER DISCOVERS MESSAGES
On the night of their last sexual encounter, the girl's mother saw the victim behaving suspiciously while making a video call with a man she did not know.
She went through the messages on her daughter's phone and became worried when she saw the large number of messages her daughter was exchanging with Chandra.
She told her former husband, as well as the victim's stepmother. All three of them went to a police station to lodge a report two days later.
The police arrested Chandra on Apr 26, 2017, and he has been remanded since that month. Police officers went to the reservoir's forested area and recovered the blue canvas mats Chandra used for each sexual encounter, and found four used condoms.
Chandra pleaded guilty on Friday to three counts of statutory rape, with another 22 charges involving various sex acts taken into consideration.
The prosecution called for the sentence that was eventually given, pointing out that Chandra was fully aware that the victim was a minor, but persisted in sexually grooming her.
"He had ample opportunity to disengage after finding out her age but did not do so," said Deputy Public Prosecutors Winston Man and Rebecca Wong. "In grooming the victim, (he) exposed the victim to sexually explicit material and ultimately engineered meetings on at least five occasions for the sole purpose of engaging in penetrative sexual activity with her."
ACCUSED MAKES CRYING SOUNDS IN DOCK
Defence lawyer A Revi Shanker asked instead for a sentence of between 14 and 18 years' jail.
"The most important thing is that my client did not employ any fear upon the victim," said the lawyer. "No force, no violence, the only thing is he did groom the victim."
He said Chandra, who has no previous convictions, had pleaded guilty at the earliest stage. He added that Chandra "knows what he did was very wrong", and he is "very remorseful about his actions".
"Apart that he encouraged her, there's no aggravating factor in respect of the action - the only thing is the age," said the lawyer.
When asked by Justice Aedit Abdullah if he had anything to say, Chandra placed his hands in a praying motion and said through an interpreter that he apologises to the court, the victim and her family.
Making crying sounds, he said: "I have two small kids, your honour, I have to take care of them."
The judge in sentencing said he accepted that the grooming of the victim was a significant aggravating factor but also noted his plea of guilt.
Orders were made after the hearing for the piece of paper with Chandra's numbers to be disposed of, while some of the victim's belongings were to be returned to her.