SINGAPORE — A care officer who worked at a children’s home began having a relationship with one of the female children he was caring for.
Over the course of the next two years, the married man pursued a romantic relationship with the victim, resulting in him having sex with the girl, then between 13 and 14 years old, around 10 to 15 times.
The 31-year-old man, who cannot be named, was sentenced to 10 years, five months’ jail and six strokes of the cane on Monday (21 September) after he pleaded guilty to a charge of statutory rape and a charge of obstruction of justice for asking the girl to lie about their affair.
Another nine charges relating to the sexual offences were taken into consideration for sentencing.
The victim resided at the children’s home from 28 March 2008, when she was four years old due to the history of domestic violence in her family.
She still stays there as her parents are unable to care for her.
The man began working as a care officer at the home in March 2016, when he was 27 years old. He got to know the girl when she was 11, and was in charge of her well-being. The two grew close as the girl felt that he was the only person at the home who listened to her sincerely and showed her genuine concern and support, said Deputy Public Prosecutors Joshua Lim and Sarah Siaw.
Even though the two gradually developed mutual romantic feelings, the man went on to marry another woman on 24 September 2016. He continued to have a romantic relationship with the victim, sharing a first hug on 5 April 2017 and a first kiss on 13 April 2017.
The other staff of the home were left in the dark about their relationship. The man later resigned from the home and his last day of work was on 24 September 2017. He kept in touch with the victim and frequently met in person outside of the home.
From 1 August 2018 to 14 April 2019, the man worked as a welfare officer at another residential home and the girl would frequently visit him there while he was on shift.
The man would drive his father’s car to pick up the girl and spend time together.
On 1 March 2018, they made “official” their relationship after the man asked the girl over social media if she wanted to be “his gal”.
On 16 April 2018, the two had unprotected sex for the first time and would engage in sexual acts at least once a month until 2019. These occasions, numbering 10 to 15, would happen in handicapped toilets at Singapore Expo, in the car, or public carparks.
When the girl stayed overnight with the man on each night from 17 to 19 November 2018, she had sex with him two of the days at his workplace. The girl lied to her home by applying for home leave to stay with her sister. She stayed with the man instead.
The offences came to light on 24 May last year when the two were spotted behaving intimately at a bus stop near the home by staff and residents who were returning from an event.
A staff member later called the man and he agreed to a meeting the next day. He came clean on 25 May, admitting to having sexual intercourse with the victim on two occasions. He agreed to surrender himself to the police and did so on the same day – accompanied by two staff members from the home.
While at the neighbourhood police centre, however, the man sent the girl text messages, telling her to tell the police that they only had sex on two occasions and that he had used a condom. He also told her to delete all the messages on her phone.
On 26 May, when the girl gave a statement to the police, she accordingly told them what she had been instructed to. However, the police found inconsistencies between the man and the girl’s statements and further probed both. The two eventually came clean. Forensic officers were able to retrieve messages between the two.
In mitigation of the man, his lawyer Sim Bing Wen cited his client as a first-time offender who committed the offences out of character.
The man had a good heart and wanted to help people but had let the relationship occur from a lapse of judgment, said the lawyer. He willingly surrendered himself and was overcome with remorse, Sim added.
The prosecution sought 10 years’, six months’ jail and six strokes of the cane, citing abuse of trust as a factor.
“A children’s home is intended to provide a safe and nurturing environment for children from broken homes. The children are exceptionally vulnerable. Adults employed as care officers in these homes have the unique privilege of being entrusted with these children’s lives, often in an intimate and emotionally meaningful way,” said the prosecution.
“They must be held to an unwavering standard of propriety. Exploitative and irresponsible behaviour on their part may have devastating and long-term consequences on the children they care for.”
Following the man’s arrest, the victim felt sad, quiet, and withdrawn but was able to focus in class, performed reasonably for her school examinations and her sleep and appetite were unaffected. The victim did not exhibit any symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, according to a clinical assessment.
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