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Sex abuse by prominent Catholic figure: AGC did not apply to lift, vary gag order so as to protect victims

Sex abuse by prominent Catholic figure: AGC did not apply to lift, vary gag order so as to protect victims

File photo of the State Courts in Singapore. (Photo: CNA/Calvin Oh)

SINGAPORE: The Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) said on Monday (Jun 6) that it did not apply to lift or vary a gag order on the identity of the prominent Catholic figure convicted of sexual offences against two teenage boys, as doing so would likely lead to the identification of the victims. 

The AGC's comments come a day after the Catholic Church said it had sought a partial lift of the gag order "for greater accountability and transparency", but that the request was denied by the AGC. 

"The gag order, which was applied for by AGC and issued by the Court, was specifically to protect the identity of the victims. It was not in any way sought to protect the interests of the accused person, or of the Catholic Order involved," the AGC said in response to CNA's queries on why it did not accede to the Church's request.

"The gag order covered the identity of the accused because, based on the facts and circumstances of the case, the identification of the accused was likely to lead to the identification of the victims," it added.

"AGC’s paramount interest was, and remains, the protection of victims. We consider every request to lift a gag order carefully as victims’ interests are paramount. Therefore, we could not accede to the request from TRCAS (The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Singapore) and declined to apply to Court to have the gag order lifted or varied."

The Archdiocese said on Sunday that it sought a partial lift of the gag order in relation to the identity of the offender, the name of the religious order, as well as details of the offender’s subsequent treatment and postings.

The offender was sentenced to five years' jail last month, after being convicted of committing sexual offences against two teenage boys between 2005 and 2007.

The Singaporean man, a member of a Catholic Order, had taken a vow of celibacy and has never married, according to court documents.

Gag orders imposed by the court prohibit the publication of his name, designation, appointment and a school he was linked to.

The Catholic Religious Order said in a statement on Sunday that the boys involved in the case "refused" to make police reports after the incidents came to light in 2009.

As such, the superior of the Catholic Order, who initiated investigations on the case, did not make a police report at the time “out of respect for the stated wishes and requested privacy of the victims”.

"To our knowledge, there are no other victims and the offender confirmed this,” the Catholic Order said.

Religious Orders within the Roman Catholic Church are separately constituted and are governed by their own judicial proceedings and administration of law.

Source: CNA/ic(gs)
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