Piano teacher with autism who molested 5-year-old student given 3 years' probation

Wan Ting Koh
·Reporter
·3-min read
Photo taken in Frankfurt Am Main, Germany
A piano (PHOTO: Getty Images)

SINGAPORE — A piano teacher who had molested a five-year-old student while giving a lesson was given a three-year probation term on Monday (23 November), after the judge considered his autistic condition.

While there was a lack of causal link between the man’s psychiatric condition and the commission of the offence, his Asperger’s Syndrome was still relevant in other aspects, Justice Pang Khang Chau said.

“Autism Spectrum Disorder (Asperger’s Syndrome) remains part of the accused’s characteristics and personal traits which the court is entitled to take into account when evaluating the accused as a person,” said the judge. The man had pleaded guilty to one count of molesting the girl.

As part of his probation conditions, the man, now 23, has to remain indoors between 11pm and 7am, serve 100 hours of community service, attend psychiatric treatment and therapy if necessary. He will be electronically tagged for the first year of his probation term.

He was also ordered not to be within any education institution or centre exclusively for children below the age of 12 at all times, or be with children without his parents or older siblings, and barred from being in child-related vocations.

His parents were also asked to put up a $5,000 bond to ensure his good behaviour. The man will also have to pay compensation of $7,000.

On 7 November 2016, the man was teaching the girl during a piano lesson when he placed his hand into her panties and touched her private part, under the pretext of adjusting her posture.

The then 19-year-old told the girl to squeeze her thighs tightly. He also scratched around her private part with his fingernail.

The victim suffered a scratch and a small abrasion to her genitals, which caused her pain while she urinated.

After the man was convicted, the court entered a Newton hearing to determine if the man’s condition was causally linked to the offence. Justice Phang then made the finding that there was no such link.

But the judge noted that the condition would contribute to him “suffering disproportionately in a prison environment on account of his lack of maturity, dependency on family support and general childlike demeanour and lack of social awareness”.

Justice Phang added, “I should clarify that I am not saying that a prison sentence must never be imposed on a person with ASD, nor am I saying that the prison authorities are incapable of managing an ASD inmate should an accused with ASD be committed to prison. What I am doing here is to simply recognise the undeniable fact that prison would have a different impact on the present accused from other persons of his age.”

The judge also agreed with the man’s lawyer, Shashi Nathan, that rehabilitation should be the primary sentencing consideration for the case, given that the man was only 19 at the time of the offence.

The prosecution had objected to a probation term, arguing that the egregious and aggravated nature of the offence warranted a jail term of 18 months.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Gail Wong said that the harm – both mental and physical – caused to the “exceptionally vulnerable” girl was severe, and the sexual intrusion high.

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