A secondary school counsellor was jailed for two years and eight months on Friday (31 August) for molesting three teenage schoolboys who had turned to him for counselling.
The 50-year-old man was also sentenced in the State Courts to three strokes of the cane but will be serving three months’ jail in lieu due to his age.
The father of two was convicted of five charges, including using criminal force with intent to molest his victims, aged between 14 and 16, from 2011 to 2013. One other similar charge was withdrawn during the trial while the man was also acquitted of two other similar charges following the trial’s conclusion.
The man said through his lawyer Melanie Ho that he intends to appeal against both his conviction and sentence. He has been suspended from his counselling job since 2013 pending investigations. He cannot be named to protect the victims’ identities.
During the trial, two of the victims testified that apart from seeing the man for scheduled 40-minute counselling sessions, they would see the man after school or during recess on an informal basis two to three times a week.
It was during the formal counselling sessions in the man’s counselling room that the man made his move on the students.
He pulled down a 15-year-old victim’s pants and touched his genitals through his underwear. In a separate incident, he asked another 15-year-old victim if he masturbated before pulling down his shorts and underwear to look at his penis. He also molested another 16-year-old victim.
Two of the victims testified in the trial that they used a cushion to shield their groin area whilst talking to the man, who would be seated beside them on a sofa.
At the close of the trial, the prosecution, represented by Deputy Public Prosecutor Yvonne Poon, said that the man was a “dedicated counsellor who was highly committed to his counselling job”.
“He earned the trust and liking of the school community and the students as he was dedicated to his job and genuinely cared about the welfare of the student body,” she said.
“However, (the man’s) role also gave him access to multiple troubled, vulnerable male students who, because of their familial or academic circumstances, often ended up looking to him as the sole adult figure in their lives whom they could rely on or turn to.”
DPP Poon urged the court to jail the man for 40 months, and three months’ jail in lieu of six strokes of the cane.
In mitigation, defence lawyer Ho said that her client, who has two children aged 19 and 21, was a first-time offender and was a caring counsellor who went out of the way to ensure the wellbeing of his students.
She submitted testimonials from the man’s former students which spoke of his positive impact on their lives.
Ho added that the man had been adequately punished as he was not permitted to work or find employment while under investigations. She sought 14 months’ jail for her client.
The man is currently on bail while his case is pending appeal.
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