A 22-year-old man who had paid sex with a 17-year-old girl from China was given 18 months' probation on Tuesday. Yap Jun Hao is the first accused to get probation for such an offence, but the prosecution said this should not set a precedent for future cases.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Sharmila Sripathy-Shanaz said that given the nature and gravity of the offence, the prosecution's position has been and continues to be that a jail sentence is warranted if an accused engages in commercial sex with a minor.
Yap was doing his full-time national service when he paid $60 for the sexual services of the native from Shandong, China, at a lodging house in Geylang in May 2013. The court heard that Yap, who would visit Geylang for prostitutes whenever he felt lonely, was approached by the minor in Lorong 22 Geylang on a day between May 18 and 20 last year. She offered him paid sexual services for $60 and they proceeded to the lodging house.
He asked for her age and she replied that she was 19 years old, but he did not take any steps to verify this.
Asked by District Judge Low Wee Ping if she had any objection to probation being made, Ms Sharmila said that in view of the "exceptional circumstances" - namely Yap's young age at the time of the offence, findings of the Institute of Mental Health psychiatrist, and a favourable probation report - she was not.
She confirmed that no other person charged with similar offences had been granted probation in the past.
District Judge Low noted that Yap suffered post-traumatic disorder following the suicide of his elder brother, to whom he was close.
Yap will continue to undergo psychiatric and psychological follow-ups at IMH. His parents each signed a $2,000 bond to ensure his good behaviour.
The maximum penalty for the offence is seven years' jail and a fine.