May 5, 2022
By Taufiq Zalizan
- A prominent figure in the local Catholic community was sentenced to five years’ jail for sexual offences against two teenage boys
- He was charged with carnal intercourse against the order of nature and sexual exploitation of a minor
- The accused was close to both victims and had even gone out for meals with one of the victim’s family
- The incidents occurred more than a decade ago
After growing close to two teenage boys, a member of the Catholic order here abused his position of spiritual authority, exploited their trust, and performed sex acts on them more than a decade ago, a court heard on Thursday (May 5).
For his crimes, the man, a Singaporean in his mid-60s, was jailed for five years after pleading guilty to two charges of carnal intercourse against the order of nature under the Penal Code, and sexual exploitation of a minor under the Children and Young Persons Act.
Two other similar charges were taken into consideration during sentencing.
He, as well as the two victims, who were between 14 and 15 at the time, cannot be named due to a gag order imposed by the court.
On Thursday, the court heard that the man was close to his first victim, and had gone out for meals with the boy’s family.
The boy had also sought out the man to seek advice for problems that he faced on a few occasions.
The man had performed full body massages on the boy’s groin area and committed sexual acts on the boy on several occasions.
He had become close with another victim over a course of a few months in 2007, to the point that they would exchange hugs when they met, the court heard.
Later on, the man began to perform massages on the victim, before eventually performing sexual acts on the teen sometime in December 2007.
The court heard that the second victim in 2009 was struggling emotionally and socially with various issues, and felt disgusted with the sexual acts.
The victim then confided details of what had happened in the sector leader of the Catholic order in Singapore who counselled him and offered to escalate the matter to the police. The victim, however, declined to do so.
In the meantime, the man admitted his wrongdoing to his religious superior when asked about the victim’s complaints, and was immediately suspended from school activities and prohibited from entering the school premises.
The man later went overseas to undergo a six-month therapy programme. He was not under police investigation because no report had been made at that time.
The man’s conduct was brought to the attention of the school’s board in late 2020. Following an internal inquiry, the chairman of the board made a police report in May last year.
The police arrested the man in January this year after concluding their investigations.
EGREGIOUS ABUSE OF TRUST AND AUTHORITY
On Thursday, District Judge Shaiffudin Saruwan said that he sought to impose a sentence that would deter others from committing such offences towards young victims.
Noting the man’s “egregious abuse” of trust and authority as the overarching aggravating factor in his sentencing decision, the judge said that the man was close to the victims and had wielded enormous spiritual authority over them.
Deputy Public Prosecutors Sarah Siaw and Gail Wong had sought a total sentence of four to six years imprisonment because the abuse of his position and trust was the main aggravating factor, though they noted that the man had pleaded guilty at the earliest possible opportunity and had fully cooperated with investigations.
In his mitigation plea, the man’s defence counsel Edmond Pereira told the court that his client had gone through four to five years of therapy with an institute in the United States in relation to the offences committed. He sought a four-year jail sentence.
Mr Pereira also pointed to a report by a doctor from the Institute of Mental Health, which stated that the risk of the man reoffending was “very low”, given that he had not reoffended over an “extremely” long period of time.
The lawyer highlighted that there was no coercion or pressure by his client on the victims, as he did not promise “any reward or favour” to the boys.
Although District Judge Shaiffudin took into consideration the man’s genuine remorse, he said that the sentence meted out must reflect the harm caused by the abuse.
Those convicted of committing carnal intercourse against the order of nature can be jailed for life or for up to 10 years and fined.
Anyone guilty of performing indecent acts with a young person can be jailed for up to two years or fined up to S$5,000, or punished with both.