SINGAPORE: A man pursued a romantic relationship with an 11-year-old girl at a children's home where he worked, and raped her when she was 13 and after he had stopped working at the home.
When he was discovered, he told the victim to lie to the police, instructing her on what to say and telling her to delete messages from her phone.
For one charge of statutory rape and another of obstruction of justice, the 31-year-old man was sentenced on Monday (Sep 21) to 10 years and five months' jail, and six strokes of the cane.
An additional nine charges of statutory rape and sexual penetration of a minor were taken into consideration for sentencing.
The man cannot be named due to a gag order preventing publication of anything that could identify the victim.
The court heard that the victim began living at the unidentified children's home in March 2008, when she was four. The Ministry of Social and Family Development had applied for a court order for her to stay at the home for her safety, as there was a history of domestic violence in her family.
Even after the court order lapsed, the girl continued staying at the home as her parents were unable to care for her. She stays there to this day.
The accused began working as a care officer at the home in March 2016 when he was 27 and the girl was 11. She was under his care, and grew close to him as she felt he was the only one who listened to her sincerely and supported her.
The accused married another woman in September 2016 but continued pursuing a romantic relationship with the victim, with the employees at the home unaware of their relationship.
The man resigned from the home in 2017. In March, 2018, he entered into a romantic relationship with the victim. Soon after, he began raping her.
"They usually had unprotected sex at least once a month, amounting to about ten to 15 occasions in total," said the prosecutors. These took place in toilets for the disabled, in the accused's father's car and other places.
On May 24, 2019, employees of the home spotted the accused and the victim behaving intimately at a nearby bus stop.
They confronted him and he admitted to having sex with the victim. Later that day, the employees went with the accused to the police centre, where he surrendered to the authorities.
MAN TOLD VICTIM TO LIE
While he was at the police station, the accused sent messages to the victim telling her that he had been arrested and asked her to delete all her messages.
He told her to say that they had sex only twice and gave the dates of these two supposed occasions. He also told her to state that they had used protection.
He did this as he did not want to be "severely punished" and wanted to suppress any evidence that might incriminate him.
When the victim gave a statement to the police, she followed the instructions the accused had given to her, hoping to reduce his punishment.
In subsequent police interviews, both the accused and the victim admitted to the truth and gave more details about what had happened.
The man was assessed at the Institute of Mental Health and was found to be fit to plead in a court of law. He was not suffering from any mental disorder and did not have paedophilic disorder.
He was also assessed to have a low risk of offending as he was remorseful. He had no forensic history and it was said that the circumstances surrounding the offence were unlikely to be replicated.
The victim was assessed by a doctor from the Child Guidance Clinic, who found that she had been feeling sad, quiet and withdrawn since the accused's arrest.
However, she could focus in class, performed reasonably well in examinations and did not exhibit any symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.
MAN EXPLOITED POSITION: PROSECUTION
Deputy Public Prosecutors Joshua Lim and Sarah Siaw asked for at least 10-and-a-half years' jail and six strokes of the cane, saying that the man had exploited the victim's trust and his position as her mentor and ex-care officer.
"A children’s home is intended to provide a safe and nurturing environment for children from broken homes," said the prosecutors.
"The children are exceptionally vulnerable. Adults employed as care officers in these homes have the unique privilege of being entrusted with these children’s lives, often in an intimate and emotionally meaningful way."
While the accused did not commit the offences while he was an employee at the children's home, it was his position that allowed him to draw closer to her, said the prosecutors.
"His offences undermine the integrity of the office vested in individuals hired in such institutions which exist to protect vulnerable children," they said.
The fact that the victim consented to the sexual acts does not reduce the need for deterrence, said the prosecution.
Girls younger than 16 are, “due to their inexperience and presumed lack of sexual and emotional maturity, considered to be vulnerable and susceptible to coercion and hence incapable of giving informed consent”, they said.
"It would therefore be contrary to such considerations for the court to treat consent as a relevant mitigating factor."
The man's failure to ensure that their relationship did not transgress boundaries "cost the victim her sexual innocence at a young age", they said.
For statutory rape, the man could have been jailed up to 20 years and fined or caned. For obstructing justice, he could have been jailed for up to seven years, fined or both.