Ex-primary school vice-principal who sexually assaulted student for years jailed 10 years

Wan Ting Koh
Reporter
Singapore's State Courts. (PHOTO: Dhany Osman / Yahoo News Singapore)

SINGAPORE — A vice-principal began sexually assaulting a student when the latter was in Primary 5 and persisted in doing so for years, after he became the victim’s guardian.

The male victim, now 30, believed that there was nothing wrong with the older man’s actions until he entered junior college.

On Wednesday (16 October), the vice-principal was sentenced to 10 years’ jail on five counts of voluntarily having carnal intercourse against the order of nature, and three counts of committing an obscene act with a child.

Two unrelated charges under the Films Act were taken into consideration for his sentencing. Both the victim and accused cannot be named to protect the victim’s identity.

The acts between the vice principal and the student began in 2003, when the victim, then a 14-year-old Primary Five student, became the vice-head prefect. The victim had come to Singapore from China with his mother when he was nine years old and attended Primary One then.

Being the vice-head prefect, the victim reported to the vice principal at his office every morning.

As the victim was involved in a workout event that the vice principal was in charge of, he would go to school for rehearsals for a few weekends before the event.

The vice principal sexually assaulted the victim on one of the occasions at the school gym. As the victim was uncertain about the nature of the acts and given the vice principal’s position, he was afraid that no one would believe him if he were to talk about the incidents.

The next year, the victim became head prefect and continued the daily routine of reporting at the vice principal’s office. That year, the vice principal conducted private English tuition at his house for the boy. He sexually abused the boy during some of these sessions.

On the first occasion, he took out several printed articles about masturbation and explained to the victim that it was “normal and healthy for a male to masturbate with another male to help each other release their sexual desires and urges”, Deputy Public Prosecutor James Chew said in court documents.

The man repeated his act the following weekend. He also told the boy that he loved him very much and tried to kiss him on the mouth.

Became the boy’s guardian

At the end of 2004, after the victim’s PSLE, his guardian was repatriated and the boy needed a new guardian in Singapore. He sought help from the man, who offered to become his guardian.

The man asked the boy to move in with him and he agreed. He shared the man’s bed every night and regarded him as a fatherly figure.

After the victim moved in, the vice principal progressed to more invasive sexual acts with the boy every fortnight. The victim believed that the man was helping him to relieve his sexual urges.

In 2006, the victim began to have doubts about the acts. He became more resistant to the sexual advances a year later but still gave in to the pressures exerted by the man.

By the time he entered junior college in 2008 and 2009, the victim, then between 19 and 20, knew that the acts were wrong. He began considering moving out but felt obliged to take care of the man’s elderly parents.

Resistant to man’s advances

In 2011, the victim discovered that he had contracted gonorrhoea urethritis, a sexually transmitted disease. He realised he needed to protect himself and decided not to give in to the man’s advances.

He became acquainted with his current wife during a trip to Scandinavia with the vice principal in June 2013 and began dating the woman secretly. His then-girlfriend urged him to report the matter to the police, but the victim was reluctant. He moved in with his then-girlfriend later that year.

In August 2015, while the victim was working, he chanced upon the vice principal’s niece, who was a medical social worker. He told the niece about the sexual assaults and she encouraged him to make a police report. She told the victim that her uncle might have done the same thing to other boys.

“This incident with (the niece) relieved some of the guilt that the victim was bearing for leaving the accused’s family suddenly in the way that he did, and the victim began to seek closure,” said DPP Chew. However, he still did not make a police report, worried that it would affect the vice principal’s job, his parents and his own reputation.

He decided to seek compensation from the vice principal, for an out-of-court settlement. He contacted the vice principal, asking for an apology and an agreement not to inflict the same acts on other boys.

After further exchanges, the victim lodged a police report on 25 November 2015.

MOE’s statement

In his defence, the vice principal had denied engaging in any sexual acts with the victim, adding that when the victim contacted him in November 2015 for compensation, he had believed it was for a caning incident in 2004.

Asking for 10 years’ jail, DPP Chew said that the man had abused the trust given to him as a vice principal. In bringing the victim to live with him and then making him sleep in the same room, the man had unrestricted access to exploit the victim, the DPP added.

The man’s lawyer, TM Sinnadurai, did not make any mitigation, but asked for a stay of his client’s sentence in order to appeal against the conviction and sentence.

District Judge Chay Yuen Fatt said that the man had shown a “gross abuse of authority and position of trust as a vice principal, guardian and mentor”.

In response to media queries, the Ministry of Education (MOE) said in a statement that the man has been suspended from duty since December 2015 and is not deployed at any school.

The statement added, “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.”

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