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Singapore

Former vice-principal found guilty of sexually violating student from when he was 14

Former vice-principal found guilty of sexually violating student from when he was 14

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

SINGAPORE: A former primary school vice-principal who sexually groomed a student for years from when he was 14, eventually taking him into his own home, was found guilty on Tuesday (Aug 27).

The man, who is now 57, had claimed trial to three charges of sexual exploitation of a young person and five charges under Section 377 of the Penal Code for carnal intercourse against the order of nature.

At the time of the offences in 2005 and 2006, the law regarded the act of fellatio as unnatural carnal intercourse within Section 377 - with the only exception being fellatio as a stimulant for consensual intercourse between a man and a woman.

The section was repealed in 2007, and there is no corresponding section today.

District Judge Chay Yuen Fatt convicted the man of all charges on Tuesday, saying he accepted the prosecution's evidence and believed the testimony of the victim, who is now 30.

He rejected the man's defence, saying he found it "wholly self-serving", and added that the prosecution had proven its case beyond reasonable doubt.

The man and the victim, who was almost a third of the then-educator's age at the time of the first offence, cannot be named due to a gag order protecting the victim's identity.

BOY CAME TO SINGAPORE FROM CHINA WHEN HE WAS NINE

The court heard that the victim had come to Singapore from China with his mother when he was about nine years old, and attended the unidentified school from Primary 1.

He was appointed vice-head prefect in 2003 when he was in Primary 5 and reported to the vice-principal every morning at his office.

The first offence occurred that year when the boy was doing exercises in the school gym. The man pushed the boy to the wall before molesting him and performing a sex act on him.

"The victim was 14 years old at this time," said Deputy Public Prosecutor James Chew. "He did not know how to react, and had doubts about the nature of what the accused did, as the accused was a very respected figure. He was also afraid that he would not be believed if he told anyone."

The boy was appointed head prefect a year later and continued reporting to the vice-principal every morning at his office. He also began going to the man's home for tuition on weekends after the vice-principal offered to coach him in English.

At his home, the vice-principal showed the boy articles about masturbation and performed sex acts on him, before taking him out for a meal.

The following weekend sometime in 2004, during another tuition session at the vice-principal's home, the man told the boy that he loved him very much and tried to kiss him before performing sex acts on him.

This behaviour continued, with the victim going to the vice-principal's home for tuition on weekends about once in two weeks, with the older man committing similar acts against him.

BOY MOVED IN WITH MAN, SEX ACTS PROGRESSED

The relationship between the two changed at the end of 2004 when the boy's guardian was repatriated by the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority.

As he needed a new guardian to remain in Singapore, the boy told the vice-principal about his situation and the man offered to become his guardian. He also asked the boy to move in with him.

He moved in and originally had his belongings placed in a room opposite the maid's, but the vice-principal asked him to sleep with him at night.

The boy slept with the vice-principal on his bed every night and also regarded the man's parents as his own grandparents.

"He also began to regard the accused not just as a mentor, but also as a fatherly figure to him, and he was very appreciative of the accused," said the prosecutor.

After the boy moved in, the sexual acts progressed to involve fellatio, with the first act sometime in early 2005.

As the boy got older, he began having doubts about what the man was doing to him, and whether they were really normal as the man had portrayed them to be.

In 2007, when the victim was about 18, he grew increasingly resistant to the man's sexual advances, and the frequency of the acts decreased.

While he was in junior college, the teenager started thinking about moving out because of the advances, but did not know how to do so as he felt obligated and responsible for the man's elderly parents.

VICTIM DISCOVERED HE HAD STD

The victim changed his mind in 2011 when he discovered that he had contracted gonorrhoea urethritis, a sexually transmitted disease, and realised that he needed to protect himself, court documents said.

He met a woman while on a trip to Scandinavia with the vice-principal in June 2013, and began dating her secretly after.

After sharing with her about what the man had done to him, the woman, who is now his wife, urged him to make a police report and move out of the man's home.

He moved out later that year when he was 24, and stayed with the woman.

The vice-principal asked the young man not to report the matter to the police, saying he may commit suicide otherwise.

VICE-PRINCIPAL'S NIECE ASKED VICTIM TO MAKE POLICE REPORT

However, the issue of reporting it to the police came up again in August 2015, when the victim chanced upon the vice-principal's niece.

He told the niece what her uncle had done, and she encouraged him to make a police report, reminding him that her uncle could have done the same thing to other boys.

The victim remained reluctant to make the report, knowing that it would cost the man his job and affect his family.

He also feared for his own reputation and did not want his parents to feel guilty when they found out about it.

After discussing the matter with the woman he was dating and a friend who was a law student, the victim decided to contact the accused to seek compensation for an out-of-court settlement, thinking this was a possible and legitimate course of action.

The victim sent the man a text on Nov 3, 2015, asking the man to compensate him S$200,000 for his acts and saying that his parents wanted to pursue the matter.

He also sought an apology, an admission and an agreement not to do such things to other boys.

The man met the victim on Nov 24, 2015, but served him a legal letter instead of having a discussion with him, and the victim lodged a police report the next day.

MAN DENIED ANY SEXUAL ACTS

Over the course of the trial, the prosecution relied on evidence including testimonies from the victim, his wife and the accused's niece, handwritten letters, articles on masturbation and a recorded phone call.

In the conversation, the vice-principal had accepted that he had committed wrongdoing against the victim from the time he was in primary school and said it was "the regret of (his) life".

The man in his defence denied engaging in any sexual acts with the victim, claiming that the teenager had not slept in his bedroom at night but only sometimes in the day.

He also said that when he was contacted by the victim for compensation, he was under the impression that the victim wanted compensation as the accused had caned him in 2004.

The judge adjourned mitigation and sentencing to a later date.

The man has been suspended from duty since December 2015 and is not deployed at any school, the Ministry of Education (MOE) said in response to CNA's queries.

"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," a spokesperson for the ministry said. 

"All educators are expected to conduct themselves in a manner which upholds the integrity of the profession and the trust placed in them."

Source: CNA/ll(cy)

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