Convicted teacher appealing six-week jail sentence for molesting pupil

SINGAPORE - A primary school teacher who was convicted of molesting a 12-year-old pupil twice was sentenced to six weeks' jail on Tuesday.

The 34-year-old, who cannot be named due to a gag order, is appealing. His $10,000 bail was doubled pending the appeal.

The accused, who was the school discipline master and in charge of a uniformed group, is alleged to have molested three other boys in six other charges, which have been stood down. A pre-trial conference will be held over those six charges.

He was found guilty last month, after a 17-day trial, of hugging and kissing the victim at a storeroom of the primary school in the west on March 16, 2012; and for hugging him at a staff room two weeks earlier.

The accused was preparing the group of Primary 6 boys for a competition, and he gave the pupil make-up training on how to tie knots at the teacher's workstation in the school staff room. That was when he hugged the pupil, now 14.

About two weeks later, in an equipment storeroom, he hugged and kissed the pupil after the two and another pupil went shopping for competition supplies. The three of them were packing materials when the accused had singled out the victim to go down to the PE store room to allegedly collect some poles.

In his grounds of decision, District Judge Soh Tze Bian accepted the prosecution submissions that there were aggravating factors in this case, including abuse of his position of trust or authority and the significant 20-year age gap between them.

"As a teacher, he is required by the school to conduct himself properly and set himself up as a good role model to students. Instead, the accused person had exploited the trust reposed in him," said the judge.

The facts appeared to reveal some degree of premeditation and the molesting act was not a mere "fleeting touch", he said.

In the March 16 incident, the judge noted that the accused's actions were especially sinister as it fuddled the line between a fatherly form of encouragement by a teacher and a corrupting paedophilic act.

"Looking at his conduct as a whole, the circumstances in which the offence was committed was inherently reprehensible,'' he said.

The accused, who has been suspended from work since March 2012, could have been jailed for up to five years, fined, caned or received any combined punishment on each charge of molesting a person under 14 years of age.