SINGAPORE - A primary school teacher unzipped his pupil's shorts to look at the underwear he had bought him and had separately asked the boy to unzip his pants, exposing his underwear to him, a court heard on Wednesday (Sept 28).
Colin Ting Fook Mun, 41, who quit teaching 1½ years ago, pleaded guilty to three of eight charges of committing an indecent act with a child, and was jailed for 12 months.
The incidents occurred at the primary school between March and September 2014 and in January 2015.
Investigations showed that sometime in September 2014, Ting asked the boy to help him carry some class materials to the staff room after class.
When they were walking back to the classroom, Ting stopped somewhere outside the male toilet and gave the boy a plastic bag containing three pairs of underwear.
He told the victim to try the black underwear. The victim complied.
When the boy came out from the toilet, Ting told the victim that he wanted to see the underwear he was wearing. The boy remained quiet.
Ting then unzipped his shorts and looked at his underwear for a short while before zipping up his shorts. Later that day, after school, Ting gave the other two pieces of underwear to the victim.
Sometime around January last year, Ting bought a new set of about six pieces of underwear for himself and told the victim about this.
He would then wear a different piece of new underwear each day, and would ask the victim to stay back after school each day to look at his underwear.
On Jan 5 and 6 in 2015, when Ting was alone with the victim, he told him to unzip his pants so that the victim could see his underwear. The victim complied.
Deputy Public Prosecutor James Chew said the victim did not tell anyone about these incidents as he was scared, and Ting had told him not to.
The incidents came to light only in April 2015 when the victim was speaking to his aunt who asked him why he had to stay back in school.
"The victim's aunt had jokingly told him to be careful as there are some "pervertic' (sic) teachers, and the victim replied that there was 'only one, not a lot','' said DPP Chew.
Ting's lawyer Philip Lam said Ting was very remorseful and regretful for what he had done. Over 15 years, Ting has taught more than 600 students without incident, he said.
Counsel said Ting was suffering from avoidant personality disorder and depression at the time. But an Institute of Mental Health psychiatrist said he did not suffer from any mental illness at the time.
DPP Chew said Ting's indecent acts over a prolonged period of time were serious and should not be trivialised in any way as being not serious. He said Ting had abused his position of trust and committed the acts within school premises where he found ways to isolate the victim.
"These incidents must have had a very adverse impact on his mental state,'' said the DPP. The victim had stated that he felt "disgust'' about the incidents, and that if other teachers asked him to help carry things, he would get his other classmates to do it instead.
District Judge Mathew Joseph said this was a gravely disturbing case. He commended Ting for his courage and for taking responsibility for his actions. He hoped Ting could put this behind him and continue to be a useful and contributing member of society.
"Your acts have brought a stain on the profession as a teacher. This is highly regrettable,'' the judge said.
Ting could have been fined up to $10,000 and/or jailed for up to five years on each charge.