A male art teacher accused of molesting a Secondary 2 student took the stand on Tuesday (13 March) in the State Courts.
While being cross-examined by Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Amanda Chong, the teacher said he had a conversation with the teenager while they were alone in the school’s art room but denied molesting him.
The teacher faces three charges of molest for allegedly touching the then-13-year-old victim on his groin, buttocks, thigh and chest. All parties involved in the case cannot be named due to a court-imposed gag order.
The teacher said that during the conversation, which took place on 17 February 2016, he admitted to tugging at the shorts of the teenager and poking the latter in the ribs in a teasing fashion. He also said the conversation was only “three to five minutes” long.
In a written statement read in court, the alleged victim said the teacher had asked him whether he masturbated. According to the statement, the teacher also asked the teenager whether he had a girlfriend and commented on the boy’s leg hair.
After the conversation, the teenager alleged that the teacher slid his hand up his leg and molested him. The teacher disputed the teenager’s account, saying that the conversation with the boy ended when two girls entered the classroom seeking his help for their art projects. He then allegedly left the art room to attend to the two students.
Last month, one of the victim’s teachers told the court that the teenager showed a teacher and the school’s vice-principal how the alleged molest was committed using a pair of school shorts.
DPP Chong asked the art teacher whether he thought it was inappropriate to ask a 13-year-old about masturbation because such conversation topics could be considered a form of sexual harassment.
The teacher admitted that he did have such a conversation with the boy but said it was “spontaneous” banter and was “meant as a joke”.
When asked by DPP Chong why he did not call on the two female students as witnesses, the teacher said he could not recall their names and faces, and was also cut off from the school after he was interdicted.
DPP Chong also pointed out that prior to the alleged incident, the boy had never complained to his family about this teacher and had no reason to make up allegations of molest against him.
If the teenager had wanted to initiate disciplinary action against the teacher, he needed only to report the inappropriate conversation, and not fabricate molest allegations, said DPP Chong.
There was also no reason why the alleged victim needed to subject himself to the criminal investigation process and testify during the trial, she added. The teacher responded that he did not know what the boy’s intentions were.
The trial is expected to conclude on Wednesday.
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