SINGAPORE: A man who sexually assaulted his friend's two young daughters over a four-year period from when they were nine was sentenced to 23 years' jail on Wednesday (Aug 14).
The sentence includes a year's jail in lieu of caning as the 59-year-old man is over the age of 50 and cannot be caned.
The man, who cannot be named to protect the identities of the victims, was a long-time friend of the victims' father and used to stay over at his place on weekends.
He was so trusted by the family that he slept in the same room as the two girls, but he forced them to perform sexual acts on him between January 2011 and May 2015.
He sexually assaulted them in a car at a multi-storey car park, or in the bedroom he shared with the girls, who were two years apart in age.
His actions were exposed when the older sister displayed suicidal tendencies two years ago and told a child protection officer about what he had done to her.
After investigations uncovered his offences against the other sister, the man pleaded guilty to three charges of aggravated sexual assault, with another seven charges taken into consideration.
MAN WAS A FATHER FIGURE, TRUSTED BY FAMILY
The prosecution had pushed for the sentence eventually meted out by the judge, saying the man was a "significant paternal figure" in both girls' lives, and had a position of trust and responsibility towards them.
He was so trusted that he was welcomed into the family home after his divorce and permitted to sleep in the same room, on the same mattress as the victims, but he exploited this trust, said Deputy Public Prosecutors Sharmila Sripathy-Shanaz and Chew Xin Ying.
He had also created opportunities to prey on the girls, said the prosecutors, sexually assaulting one while the other was asleep and isolating the other by getting her to accompany him to park his car so he could abuse her in the deserted car park.
The children were young at the time of the offences, with one sister aged between nine and 10 and the other aged nine to 13 years old.
"The accused capitalised on their naivete and sexual inexperience to perpetrate his offences," said the prosecutors. "The moral corruption of such young children cannot be over-emphasised."
The man marred the girls' childhood and could have transmitted sexual diseases to them, said the prosecution.
SENTENCE NOT CRUSHING, JUDGE SAYS
Justice Pang Khang Chau said he generally agreed with the prosecution, but took into account the man's guilty plea and expression of remorse in court.
The man had highlighted various medical conditions he suffered from, including migraines which he suspected were due to a growth in his head.
However, an MRI report later found no signs of a tumour, and the other medical conditions do not appear to be life-threatening or affecting his life expectancy, the judge said.
He found that the medical conditions did not call for the sentence to be adjusted, and backdated the sentence to his date of remand in June 2017.
"Although the accused is 59 years old now, his sentence will be backdated to 2017, which means he will be imprisoned till he is 72 years old if we take into account possible remission," said the judge, who added that the sentence was not a crushing one.
For each charge of aggravated sexual assault by penetration, the man could have been jailed between eight and 20 years and given at least 12 strokes of the cane.