SINGAPORE: A 42-year-old man who tried to a pay a 16-year-old girl for sex was sentenced to three months' jail on Wednesday (Apr 10) in the first case of its kind.
Singaporean Andy Kow Yong Wen had claimed trial to a single charge of trying to obtain commercial sex with a minor and was found guilty by the judge.
The court heard that the victim, who cannot be named due to a gag order, had advertised sexual services on online web listing page Locanto between July and August 2017.
In her posts, the 16-year-old said she would provide certain sexual services but would not engage in sexual intercourse.
On Aug 1, 2017, Kow sent messages to the teenager's Locanto account, saying he wanted to engage her services and was willing to be her "sugar daddy".
The conversation moved to chat application WeChat, where the victim told Kow her real age and sent pictures of herself to him on his request. Kow asked her if she would have sex with him for S$500, but she did not agree.
Later that month, Kow asked to meet the teenager in order to drive her to her tuition lesson in Alexandra Road.
However, instead of dropping her off, he drove her to the basement car park at IKEA along Alexandra Road and kissed her before molesting her.
The girl told him that she was late for tuition and Kow gave her S$50 despite the victim saying she did have money for food.
Her mother called the police on Aug 25, 2017 after looking through messages on the victim's phone and Kow was arrested.
Kow, who was represented by lawyer Peter Ong, said during the trial that sexual ideas had not crossed his mind when he met her in person.
When questioned about taking a young girl to a basement car park and "doing things to her", Kow said he thought it was natural as he had taken a liking to her.
When reminded he was more than 20 years older than the victim, who could even be his daughter, Kow said only: "Yes."
He also said that the girl had "kissed me back" with "no rejection" at the car park, even though the girl testified during the trial that she had been caught off-guard and did not know how to react when taken to the basement car park.
YOUNG AND VULNERABLE MUST BE PROTECTED: JUDGE
In delivering his sentence, District Judge John Ng said this was the first case of a person being prosecuted for attempting to obtain commercial sex with a minor under 18.
He said the dominant consideration in previous High Court cases where the act was achieved was to protect the young and vulnerable from commercial exploitation.
The judge said the prosecution's call for at least six months' jail was too high in this case as the actual act of exploitation had not materialised.
Even so, the sentence could not just be "a slap on the wrist" but has to be sufficient in order to "send out a deterrent message to discourage people from trying to gain the trust of immature girls for the purpose of commercial sex with them".
"Regardless of whether these girls had actively attracted the attention of the men, the law is there to prohibit without exceptions such attempts and propositions," said the judge.