Loanshark runner spared caning because of sex change

A loanshark runner, who underwent a sex change to become a woman, was spared caning on Friday for helping two friends set fire to the doors of debtors' homes. Benitha, formerly known as Kavi Raj Tamaraselvan, was sentenced to 14 months in jail. Male offenders normally also receive between three and six strokes of the cane for each offence committed.

She had pleaded guilty in April. A district court then heard that she underwent a sex change operation in Thailand in March last year.

On September 14 last year, police arrested her and her two friends. One of them was Geevanraj Balraj, 20. The other was a 15-year-old boy. He cannot be named as he is a minor. Investigations revealed that the trio had scribbled loanshark graffiti and set fire to the doors of four flats with petrol Geevanraj had stolen from parked motorcycles. He received $200 from the loanshark for each harassment job.

Pleading for leniency, defence counsel Rajan Supramaniam said that she had fallen under the "corrupting influence" of Geevanraj, who had promised to marry her.

When passing sentence, District Judge Hamidah Ibrahim said that since Benitha is now a female, there would be no caning.

Geevanraj was sentenced last November to reformative training while the 15-year-old was placed on probation for two years.