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Former principal pleads guilty to molesting schoolboys in his office while discussing disciplinary issues

Former principal pleads guilty to molesting schoolboys in his office while discussing disciplinary issues

File photo of the State Courts in Singapore (Photo: Jeremy Long)

SINGAPORE: Over about two months, a then-school principal molested seven boys at his school who faced problems at home or had disciplinary issues, targeting the teens while alone in his office. 

The offences were uncovered after some of the victims, who were aged between 13 and 15 at the time, confided in each other about what happened and decided to report the matter.

The 48-year-old former principal pleaded guilty on Friday (Aug 28) to three counts of outraging the victims' modesty, with another eight charges taken into consideration for sentencing.

The accused and the school cannot be named due to gag orders imposed by the court to protect the victims' identities.

The court heard that the victims were often called in by an operations manager to the school's general office to serve detention, receive counselling or to be told about the disciplinary action that will be taken against them.

The operations manager's desk was near the office of the principal, who would ask to speak to the student in his room. Sometimes, he would inform the teachers and set up a time for the students to go to his office, on the pretext of discussing their disciplinary issues.

During these meetings, the former principal would be alone with the student in his office, with the door closed. He would touch their arms and thighs before molesting them.

VICTIM IN CHAT OVER DISCIPLINE ISSUES WHEN ACCUSED CALLED HIM IN

One of the earlier incidents was against a 13-year-old boy referred to as V3 in court documents. He was speaking to the operations manager sometime before Aug 20, 2017, about his disciplinary issues.

The accused asked why V3 was being disciplined, before telling the operations manager that he would take over the matter.

He led the boy into his office, closed the door and asked why he kept misbehaving in school.

During the conversation, the former principal placed his hand on the boy's thigh before molesting him. The boy felt pain and stood up, but the accused began stroking the boy's chest, telling him to stop misbehaving in school.

The victim felt "uneasy and disgusted" but did not know how to respond to the situation, returning to class afterwards, said Deputy Public Prosecutors Sruthi Boppana and Mark Yeo.

He did not tell anyone immediately as he felt no one would believe him given his disciplinary issues, the court heard.

The former principal committed similar acts against a second victim in September 2017, molesting the victim in his office.

The 14-year-old, named as V1, was shocked and told the man that he was uncomfortable with the acts. 

V1 was initially hesitant to report the matter to the school or the police. He felt the accused had "helped him significantly when he was in Secondary 1, as the accused had allowed him to promote to Secondary 2 despite him not scoring the required grades to do so", said the prosecutors.

A month after this, the accused targeted another 13-year-old boy who was serving detention near the general office. 

He told the victim not to continue misbehaving or risk ending up at Boys Town, before asking if he was involved in any police cases.

When told that the victim was involved in a rioting case, the accused molested the boy, shocking him and causing the boy to push his chair back.

The accused told the boy "not to do anything wrong that would result in him having to go to Boys Town" and continued touching him. 

BOYS TALKED TO EACH OTHER, REALISED WHAT HAPPENED

The incidents against these three boys came to light only after a fourth victim, who was 14, told a fifth victim, aged 15, about what had happened. When the boys realised that their principal had committed similar acts on them, they reported the matter to the operations manager.

The manager, along with the student welfare officer and other school staff, began internal investigations and the incident was reported to the Ministry of Education (MOE). An MOE officer lodged a police report in early November 2017, over "indecent (acts)" by the principal towards the students.

Investigations revealed that the accused had committed similar acts against seven boys in total at the school.

MOE previously told CNA when the man was charged that he had not been employed by the ministry as of Jan 1, 2018.

"MOE takes a serious view of staff misconduct and will not hesitate to take disciplinary action against those who fail to adhere to our standards of conduct and discipline, including dismissal from service," it said.

He will return to court for mitigation and sentencing on Oct 6.

For each charge of molesting a minor under 14, the man faces a maximum jail term of five years, a fine, caning, or any combination of these penalties.

Source: CNA/ll(gs)

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