Court dismisses appeal by sex offender who claims 9-year-old victim was lying to placate upset father
SINGAPORE: The Court of Appeal on Wednesday (Aug 7) dismissed an appeal against conviction and sentence by a foreign executive sentenced to 14 years' jail and 24 strokes of the cane for sexually assaulting a nine-year-old boy during a Halloween sleepover in 2015.
The 49-year-old man, who cannot be named to protect the identity of the victim, claimed through his defence lawyers that the victim was lying.
The boy knew that his father was watching the Rugby World Cup game on television that night and would be upset if he had to drive down to the offender's home to take him home, argued lawyer Eugene Thuraisingam.
READ: Father of three gets 14 years' jail, 24 strokes of the cane for sexually assaulting son's friend
The appellant, a father of three himself, had hosted the party at his home on Oct 31, 2015, with several of his son's friends attending.
He was convicted last year of molesting the victim on a bunk bed as his own son slept on the lower bunk, before sexually assaulting the boy by performing oral sex on him.
After the incident, the boy said he felt ill and wanted to go home, and his father picked him up and later lodged a police report.
Mr Thuraisingam, who was on the case for the first time and joining trial defence lawyer Selva K Naidu, argued that the boy had a motive to make up the allegations.
He also said that the victim's evidence was unreliable and inconsistent.
JUDGES NOT CONVINCED
However, Appeal Judges Steven Chong, Tay Yong Kwang and Justice Woo Bih Li were not convinced.
Justice Chong pointed out that there was no evidence that the boy had a propensity to lie, nor any disciplinary record showing that he did so regularly.
"This is not a simple lie," said the judge. "This is quite a serious lie to implicate (the appellant), his good friend's father, of a serious crime.
"And taking your case at its highest, he had a headache. Why would the father be upset with the son to fetch him, if he's not well?" the judge said.
Mr Thurasingam said the father may have been irritated to fetch him as there was a rugby game going on and it was quite a distance to travel from his home to the appellant's.
He added that the victim's mother and school counsellor had said that the father was reluctant to fetch him.
The boy could speak to his father in French, added the defence lawyer, and nobody else there understood the language.
However, instead of telling his father in French what had happened, he told him that he was unwell.
"If something terrible like that had happened and he had the natural advantage of being able to speak in a language that (nobody else understood), why didn't he tell his father that?" asked Mr Thuraisingam.
"The question is - is it an unnatural reaction not to have said that," returned Justice Chong. "Some people would have reacted that way, and screamed to the father - that's what happened to me."
BOY TOLD FATHER "GET ME OUT OF HERE"
Justice Tay added that the boy had told his father "get me out of here" in French over the phone.
"If your child suddenly calls you in the middle of the night, your reaction would be - why don't you please try to sleep, but if your child says 'please get me out of here', your attitude changes," he said.
Mr Thuraisingam claimed that "something happened" when the victim was in the car with his father, and that the father had shouted at the boy.
When questioned by Justice Woo on why the line of questioning had not been pursued during cross-examination of the victim during the trial, Mr Thuraisingam said it was because the victim took the witness stand before his father, so the significance of the rugby game was raised only later.
Mr Thuraisingam also argued that the boy was inconsistent in describing how he was molested, whether outside his shorts or with them pulled down, and the position he was sleeping in.
Justice Chong said: "What I find puzzling and troubling is - a boy can lie. But it's the gravity and nature of this lie. He could say: I had a quarrel with the appellant's son. I had a disagreement. But why come up with something so outrageous? It is an outrageous lie."
He said the boy had no history of "anything unpleasant" with the appellant, and instead had enjoyed playing at his house with Nerf guns and enjoyed going to his home.
"He had every disincentive," said the judge.
COURT DISMISSES APPEAL UNANIMOUSLY
After deliberating for 20 minutes, the judges dismissed the appeals unanimously, without requiring the prosecution to speak.
"Central to the appellant’s case in this appeal is that the complainant lied to placate his father who was purportedly annoyed at having to fetch his son at close to midnight," said Justice Tay.
He said the boy was nine at the time, and it had not been shown that he had a propensity for telling lies, had a wild imagination or sexual fantasies.
The night of the incident had come at the end of two days of fun for him and his friends, said the judge, along with a zombie run and a Halloween party.
The boy had a good time during the party and collected the most candy, and it was not his first sleepover at the home.
"He had no conceivable motive or reason to accuse the appellant of wrongful behaviour. Indeed he had every disincentive not to do so," said the judge.
He added that the boy's abrupt decision to go home was "very telling", and that he was scared not because he had told a terrible lie to his father about the appellant, but that he was "genuinely afraid after experiencing the terrible things" done to him in the bedroom.
They upheld the trial judge's decision and dismissed the appeal against conviction. They also dismissed the application to run the sentence of 12 strokes' of the cane for two charges concurrently instead of consecutively, as they were the mandatory minimum.
The offender was given 15 minutes after the hearing to speak to his family, who attended the hearing.