SINGAPORE: A father of six was sentenced to 10 years' jail and six strokes of the cane on Wednesday (Jul 17) for raping an 11-year-old neighbour.
The 37-year-old man was close to the family of the victim as they lived in the same block. Their names and address cannot be revealed due to a gag order protecting the victim's identity.
In July 2017, the girl moved to the block and was introduced to his family by another family. All three families were close and had gatherings at their homes.
The girl's stepfather gave him a job as an operations manager at his transport company, and he was assigned a delivery van for work.
The man began chatting with the child on WhatsApp in March 2018.
The girl told him that she liked him, but knew that he was already married, said Deputy Public Prosecutors Kavita Uthrapathy and Lim Ying Min.
AGE IS JUST A NUMBER, ACCUSED SAID
In response, the man told the girl: "Men (can) have four wives."
When she asked if her age was a concern, he replied: "Age (is) just a number."
The man began calling the girl "darling" in his WhatsApp messages to her, and they sent each other pornographic videos.
Their first sexual encounter occurred on May 10 last year, when he invited the girl to his flat. They began kissing on his bed and he molested her. She left the flat when he said he needed to pick up his wife and children.
Five days after this, the sexual activity escalated to statutory rape.
At about 7.30pm on May 15, 2018, the man picked the girl up in his delivery van, which he drove to deck 6A of a nearby multi-storey car park.
He and the girl kissed on a sofa at the back of the van, and he made her perform a sex act on him before raping her without a condom.
When the girl got home, she realised that her underwear was stained with blood. She had been a virgin and started menstruating only two years before this.
About a month later, the victim's parents confronted her as they became suspicious about her communications with the man.
She confessed to engaging in sexual activity with him. The group confronted the man who similarly admitted to the act. He was arrested that same day.
The man later admitted to the police that he was not in any relationship with the victim, and that he knew it was an offence to engage in sexual intercourse with an underage person.
He also told police that he had done it "for fun" and wanted to "entertain and let her experience the sexual acts".
PROSECUTION AND DEFENCE AGREE ON SENTENCE
The man pleaded guilty on Wednesday to one charge of statutory rape, with another three charges of committing an indecent act with a child, sexual penetration of a minor and possessing obscene films taken into consideration.
Both the prosecution and defence lawyer Mohamed Fazal Abdul Hamid had asked for the sentence that was eventually given.
The prosecutors said this was "a case of gross sexual exploitation of a naive 11-year-old by the 37-year-old accused who treated the victim as his personal plaything for his own sexual gratification".
"Children, like the victim, deserve the full protection of the law against sexual predators like the accused," said the prosecution.
They added that the man had sexually groomed the victim, who was at a tender age and not in a position to appreciate or understand the implications of a sexual relationship.
He had exposed her to the risk of sexually transmitted diseases and an unwanted pregnancy, said the prosecutors.
Defence lawyer Mr Fazal said he was in agreement with the prosecution on the length of sentence.
He said his client had pleaded guilty and "will regret committing (these offences) for a very long time to come".
This was the man's first brush with the law, the lawyer said, and he had acted "out of character".
ACCUSED SUPPORTS WIFE AND KIDS, EX-WIFE AND KIDS
The man was the sole breadwinner and supported his family on a S$3,000 monthly salary, said the lawyer. His wife was an undischarged bankrupt and jobless, and two of their three children together are still in school.
On top of this, the man also gives money to his ex-wife to support three other children he had with her.
"Lastly, (he) asks for forgiveness from his victim and promises not to commit any other offences in the future," said the lawyer. "He has truly learnt his mistake and is truly remorseful."
He noted, however, that it was the victim who first sent the man a message, and that both parties had sent each other explicit videos.
"It's not a case where it was one-way traffic," said the lawyer from IRB Law. "The accused did not expressly say to the victim to keep their affairs a secret from her parents."
In response, Deputy Public Prosecutor Kavita Uthrapathy said the victim was a child, at only 11 years of age.
"The accused was an adult and should have known better than to engage in sexual activity with an underage girl, and he has admitted that he knew it was an offence to do so, and still proceeded to go ahead," she said.
Justice See Kee Oon said he agreed that both sides' submissions on the sentence were appropriate. He granted the defence's request for the man to have a word with his family after the hearing, before returning to prison.
For statutory rape, he could have been jailed for up to 20 years and fined or caned.