SINGAPORE: A man who sexually abused his girlfriend's two young daughters over the span of six years, beginning with the older girl when she was 10 and turning to the younger girl when she was eight, was sentenced on Monday (Nov 9).
The sisters did not tell each other what happened, and the crimes against the older girl were uncovered only after the younger sister, who could not bear the man's abuse any longer, told her school counsellors.
For his crimes against the girls, the 36-year-old man was sentenced to 17 years' jail and 24 strokes of the cane.
He pleaded guilty to two counts of aggravated sexual assault and two counts of outrage of modesty against minors, with five other charges taken into consideration.
All parties cannot be named due to gag orders protecting the identities of the victims, who are now 19 and 14. The older sister was between 10 and 14 years old while her younger sister was between eight and 11 when the offences were committed against them.
The court heard that the offender was between 28 and 33 years old at the time of the offences and had worked as a freelance cameraman.
Both he and the victims' mother began dating in 2010 after a mutual friend introduced them to each other.
He began staying over at their flat and later moved into their one-room flat, with the entire family sleeping on a mattress on the floor.
The girls considered the man their father, as their biological father had left them when they were very young, and the offender would play with them and comb their hair.
The older sister was about 10 years old when the abuse began in 2012.
The family members were asleep on the shared mattress in the living room when the offender began touching and combing the older girl's hair.
He became aroused and sexually assaulted her, stopping his actions when he sensed movement and went back to sleep.
A few days later, he molested the girl while she was asleep, and it later occurred to him that what he was doing was wrong. He stayed awake for some time and kept telling himself that the victim was his "daughter" and not his lover.
However, he continued to sexually assault the girl for about three years until she was in secondary school.
Sometime in 2012, when the older girl was alone with him in the flat, he suggested that they play a game where she would be blindfolded and made to taste different condiments.
She agreed but he became aroused during the game and later performed a sex act on her. He pretended to continue the game, deceiving the frightened girl who requested for some water.
HE TURNED HIS ATTENTION TO THE YOUNGER GIRL WHEN SHE TURNED 8
When the younger sister turned eight, the man turned his attention to her and began abusing her, said Deputy Public Prosecutor Rebecca Wong.
The girl was scared but complied with his instructions to perform sex acts on him as she felt she had no choice, crying afterwards.
Neither sister was aware of what happened to the other, as they did not speak about the abuse and did not know how to tell others about what had happened.
However, when the offender approached the younger sister again on Sep 17, 2017, she was unable to take the assault any longer and told her school counsellors the next day.
A police report was lodged and her mother was notified to head down to the police station. The accused was next to the victims' mother when she took the call and insisted to be there, saying he suspected that the issue had something to do with him.
He was arrested at the police station and details of the crimes against the older sister subsequently came to light. The two sisters were seen by a psychiatrist, with the older one feeling angry and wondering why the offender would do such things to her, while the younger girl said she felt scared after each incident.
The prosecution asked for the term that was meted out, saying that the case spanned six years with two victims, and featured an abuse of trust. There was also an element of deception in the blindfold game, said Deputy Public Prosecutor Nicholas Lai.
Defence lawyer Ramesh Tiwary asked for 14 to 15 years' jail. He said his client had admitted to the offences during investigations and accepts that there was abuse of trust.
He said the psychiatrist had found no long-term adverse psychological effects in the victims.
Justice Valerie Thean said a discount for the offender's early plea of guilt was given, but said the two victims were materially young and the sexual exploitation was serious.
She added that the children were entrusted to the offender, whom they treated as their father, and the offences were committed in the safety of the home.
She backdated the jail term to his remand date in September 2017.
For each count of sexual assault by penetration against a minor, the man could have been jailed between eight and 20 years and given at least 12 strokes of the cane. For outraging the modesty of a minor, he could have been jailed for up to two years, fined, caned, or given any combination of these penalties.