Care-centre guardian gets jail for sexually abusing eight boys

As a guardian, the senior citizen was entrusted with looking after adolescent boys at a student care centre. But over a two-year period, the 66- year-old man preyed on them.

The man, who sexually abused eight boys between 2011 and 2013, was sentenced to 10 years in jail yesterday. Neither he nor the victims, then aged eight to 11, can be named owing to a gag order.

After a 14-day trial, he was convicted of 11 counts of molesting the eight primary school pupils, and two counts of sexually penetrating one of them, then aged 10, between 2011 and 2013.

The man had, under the guise of helping the victims with their school work, molested them by touching their private parts.

Two of the charges were for giving and receiving oral sex from a 10-year-old boy in a school toilet in or around August 2013.

As a childcare centre guardian at the student care centre, he supervised pupils aged between seven and 12.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Gabriel Choong Hefeng, who sought a sentence of at least 12 years, said the boys looked up to him for guidance and instruction, but he abused their trust.

District Judge Hamidah Ibrahim said in her brief remarks last month that as the man's defence was that he did not commit any of the offences, it was a case of his word against that of the victims.

Having had the benefit of observing all the eight boys on the stand, she found them to be "forthright and candid" witnesses.

She said they were able to give coherent, compelling and credible accounts of the acts of sexual abuse that had been perpetrated against them.

Although there were discrepancies and inconsistencies in their evidence, she said these were mostly minor and immaterial and did not adversely impact their credibility.

She said the man's conduct of contacting some of the boys after he was suspended on Sept 13, 2013, "smacks of a blatant attempt" to try and cover his tracks.

The court heard that the man groomed the victims by giving them gifts and treating them preferentially, particularly with regard to three of the boys.

The boy in the oral sex charges testified that he felt disgusted and had once told the man that he "don't want to do already".

The man had replied that he would "do it on others", adding: "Then I won't treat you so good."

The man, who cannot be sentenced to caning because he is over 50, is out on $100,000 bail, pending his appeal.

The maximum punishment for each charge of sexual penetration of a minor is 20 years in jail, a fine or caning, and for molesting a person under 14 years old, five years in jail, a fine, caning or any combination of punishment.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 23, 2017, with the headline 'Care-centre guardian gets jail for sexually abusing eight boys'. Print Edition | Subscribe