SINGAPORE: A 45-year-old man was sentenced to eight years' jail and 24 strokes of the cane on Tuesday (Nov 20) for molesting three children who were aged between four and nine.
Of the three girls, one was his own niece, while another was his four-year-old neighbour. The third victim is believed to be between six and eight years old.
The man cannot be identified in order to protect the identity of his now 11-year-old niece, who was eight when he first molested her.
The married man, who was a research associate at a local university, committed the crimes between Aug 2014 and Jan 2017, when he was caught.
He would distract the children with games on his mobile device, before molesting them, beginning with touching them over their clothes and progressing to skin-on-skin contact, the court heard.
The prosecution said that he did this "so frequently that he had essentially normalised his acts of molest on the victims" such that they did not stop him as it was ordinary to them.
The father of two sons pleaded guilty to six counts of aggravated outrage of modesty, with 17 charges taken into consideration for sentencing.
The court heard that the accused shared a warm relationship with his neighbour, and the two families would invite the other over to their homes for birthday parties or festive occasions.
Because they were close, the parents of the first victim allowed their four-year-old daughter to the accused's home to play with his children unsupervised. The child was molested four times over six months, the prosecution said.
The second victim was aged eight when she was first molested, and was the daughter of the accused's own sister. She visited the accused once or twice a month over the weekend to visit her grandparents and play with her cousins.
NEIGHBOUR TOLD MOTHER THAT SHE FELT PAIN
The offences came to light when the young neighbour complained to her mother before a bath that she was feeling pain in her private parts.
When asked why, the girl told her mother that her neighbour had touched her buttock and rubbed her "pee pee" area. She said she felt pain especially when she urinated.
She demonstrated how she had been touched by pressing her index finger hard against her mother's arm, and said that the accused did not stop when she asked him to.
The young child also told her mother that she had not told anyone because she was afraid of getting scolded, and that she had told her this time only because it was painful to urinate and she wanted her neighbour to stop touching her.
The girl's parents took their daughter to KK Women's and Children's Hospital for a medical examination on Jan 1, 2017, and the hospital reported a case of sexual assault to the police.
Police arrested the accused the next day and searched his house a few days later, seizing several items including a video camera, memory cards and a hard disk.
Nine deleted videos showing the accused performing sexual acts on his niece and the third victim, who is unidentified, were recovered from a memory card by forensic examiner.
The clips, taken in his bedroom and his mother's bedroom, show the accused molesting the girls.
ACCUSED REFUSED TO HELP IDENTIFY THIRD VICTIM
According to the prosecution, the accused refused to provide any information that might lead to the identification of the third victim even though "he clearly knew who she was".
He did so in order to "thwart any further offences that may be levelled against him" should the third victim reveal more incidents of sexual abuse, the prosecution said.
The prosecution asked for the sentence that was eventually given, saying that what the accused did to the victims was one of the worst cases of its sort.
"Essentially, the transgressions fell just one step short of rape," said Deputy Public Prosecutor Nicholas Lai.
"A deterrent sentence will underscore the very real concern that the courts have over the difficulty of detection of such cases."
He added: "The accused treated his victims like objects used to satiate his sexual desires. He was emboldened by the fact that his acts on them went unreported.
"This led him to do the same acts against more than one victim and to intensify his intrusion into their privacy.
"For that, he has to be punished to instil in him the fear of re-offending and to send an unstinting message to like-minded offenders that such crimes would eventually be found out and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."