SINGAPORE: A man who was set to plead guilty to charges of sexual assault against his stepdaughter, then aged eight to nine, is claiming trial instead after he contested the facts outlined by the prosecution.
The 42-year-old man, who worked as a canteen helper at his uncle's stall, cannot be named in order to protect the identity of the victim.
The court heard that the man lived with his wife, the biological mother of the victim, and the two children he had with her. The woman also brought with her four children, including the victim, from a previous marriage and the family lived together in a flat with the woman's parents, grandaunt, and maid.
The man was set to plead guilty to three charges, including one charge of sexually assaulting his stepdaughter, then aged nine, in 2015, and two charges of outraging her modesty, in 2016. He had faced another seven charges of aggravated outrage of modesty of his stepdaughter.
The child called him "abah" or father, and slept in a bedroom with him and her mother along with her two step-siblings.
The alleged offences came to light after the girl began crying when it was time to return to her stepfather's flat after staying with her biological father.
Her biological parents thought she cried because she wanted to stay with her real father for a longer time, but on one occasion she cried and told them that she had allegedly been abused. Her biological father then made a police report, and she now lives with him.
Her stepfather was arrested at his workplace on Oct 18, 2016.
He later told police that he had noticed his stepdaughter "becoming curvaceous like a woman" and was "overcome by lust" for her, the prosecution claimed.
STEPFATHER CONTESTS FACTS
The man was set to plead guilty twice before. On Monday, he asked for an adjournment as he said it was his son's birthday and that he wanted "one last chance to celebrate with his son". The prosecution had objected, saying that he had already known that he was going to plead guilty that day, and that the weekend had just passed with opportunity for celebration.
The judge allowed the adjournment, but the man told the court on Tuesday that he did not accept the prosecution's statement of facts (SOF).
He contested the statement, claiming that his stepdaughter had "consented" to some acts and had "initiated" some of them.
"I don't accept the SOF but I want to plead guilty today as I've been told that if I don't accept the SOF, there will be a pre-trial conference, the (guilty plea) offer will be taken away from me, there will be (electronic) tagging and the bail will go up," he told the judge. "I (have) got no choice."
"You have a choice," said Justice Valerie Thean.
"I'm a poor person, I cannot raise bail anymore," said the man. "And I'm really (stressed) right now, with so many things, really, so as not to prolong my stress it's better to plead guilty today and only God will help me."
He added that he did not want to waste any more of his family's time.
The judge rejected his plea because he refused to accept the SOF. The case will be set for trial at a later date.
She increased his bail from S$50,000 to S$80,000 and placed him on electronic tagging due to the change in circumstances.
Those circumstances include him now claiming trial after saying he would plead guilty. There is also a risk that he might attempt to contact the victim and he now faces more serious charges after his guilty plea offer lapsed.
Of the new set of charges he faces, one is a charge of attempted rape of a minor, which the prosecution had previously applied for a discharge not amounting to acquittal, as part of the guilty plea offer.
His lawyer, who was assigned the case under the Criminal Legal Aid Scheme, said he would be discharging himself after the hearing.
If found guilty of attempted rape of a minor, the man could be jailed for between eight and 20 years and given at least 12 strokes of the cane.