SINGAPORE: A man who sexually abused his stepsister's 12-year-old friend over about a year was sentenced to jail for three years and 11 months on Thursday (Jun 13).
The 28-year-old man cannot be named as a gag order has been imposed on his identity, as well as that of his stepsister and victim.
He had known the girl since she was nine, as she was his stepsister's best friend, the court heard.
She came from a broken family, with her mother and stepfather in jail while her biological father lived in Pertapis Home due to substance abuse.
She would stay with either her maternal grandmother or paternal grandfather, and began spending more time at her best friend's flat in 2014, when she was in Primary 5.
The girl grew closer to the accused's family and chatted with him regularly on Facebook.
The pair began developing feelings for each other, said Deputy Public Prosecutor Angela Ang.
In August 2015, when he was 24, the man asked the 12-year-old victim to be his girlfriend.
The girl told him her age and was concerned about the age gap, but eventually agreed when the man assured her that "it did not matter", the court heard.
They began dating, with the accused picking the girl up from school, helping her with her school work, giving her additional pocket money for food and cooking for her.
The girl's grandparents knew about the relationship and disapproved, but were unable to stop her from meeting the man.
About one or two months after the duo began dating, the girl went to the one-room flat where her best friend's family lived after school to look for her boyfriend.
Her best friend was not in the flat at the time and the accused's mother was sleeping in a bed behind a partition. There was also a sofa bed in the flat.
The couple kissed. Afterwards, the man removed his shorts and told the girl he wanted to have sex with her. She was initially reluctant and pushed him away, but consented after he persuaded her.
He then had unprotected sex with her, and the child, who was a virgin at the time, felt pain, the prosecutor said.
After this, the man continued sexually abusing the girl at least once every two to three weeks when they were in the flat.
On one occasion, sometime in 2016 before the girl turned 13, she went to his flat to spend time with him. Her best friend was also home.
The couple sat on the sofa bed and switched on the television, while the man's stepsister lay on the bed behind the partition and used her phone.
The man sexually abused the girl on the sofa bed. While they were having sex, the stepsister walked over and saw them in the act. The couple quickly stopped and got dressed.
The stepsister was unhappy and began to cry as she was afraid that her stepbrother would get into trouble due to her best friend's age.
Her stepbrother apologised to her and asked her not to tell anyone about what she saw. He also asked the victim to apologise to her best friend, which she did.
MAN SEXUALLY ASSAULTED GIRL DESPITE HER EXPRESS DISAPPROVAL
Sometime between September 2015 and August 2016, the girl went to her boyfriend's flat to play computer games.
While on the sofa-bed, the man climbed on top of the girl and told her he wanted to have anal sex with her. Recalling the pain she had experienced when he first abused her, the girl refused, but the man sexually assaulted her without a condom despite her express disapproval.
He stopped when the girl began shouting, hoping that her best friend would hear her from behind the partition.
The offences came to light only when a teacher from the victim's secondary school noticed that she had not been coming to school for several days.
She spoke to her on Aug 31, 2016, and the girl admitted that she had been having sexual intercourse with the accused.
The school informed the child's maternal grandmother, and the teacher went to lodge a police report along with the girl and her family members.
The man was arrested about a month later. He pleaded guilty on Thursday to three charges of sexual penetration of a minor, with another three charges taken into consideration.
MAN PLANNED TO MARRY THE GIRL: DEFENCE
The man's lawyer Henry Lim told the court that his client "did not scheme or groom the minor so that he would engage in a sexual relationship with her", but that "both developed fondness for each other".
The sex was "consensual" and occurred during their relationship, which was known to both families. The man planned to marry the girl, said the defence lawyer, with the consent of both his parents and her father.
He said his client had a clean record and pleaded guilty early "to show his deep remorse and so as not to cause further embarrassment to the victim and her family".
District Judge Marvin Bay said the court must take a very strong stand in all cases involving the sexual exploitation of very young victims.
"In this case, the victim was just 12 to 13 at the time, and hence just practically half your age," he said.
"Given your age and close association with the victim's family, which included your extending financial support, there is a cynical exploitation of the victim in the guise of a romantic relationship which took on sexual dimensions which the victim would be barely able to understand, much less handle on a psychological or emotional basis," said the judge.
He added that the accused used force on her in one instance, causing her pain and alarm.
For each count of sexual penetration of a minor under the age of 14, he could have been jailed up to 20 years and fined or caned.