SINGAPORE - Although his embrace was unwelcome, a cleaner persisted in holding a teenage girl's hand and hugging her twice.
It was enough to frighten the 13-year-old who resorted to lying about where she lived to throw him off.
On Friday (Sept 22), Tham Jung Kang, 48, was sentenced to nine weeks' jail for outraging her modesty by hugging her. Another charge of kissing her twice on the cheek was taken into consideration during sentencing.
Tham had seen the girl limping while walking to her tuition centre in Hougang on Aug 12, 2016, a court heard. He then proceeded to walk with her that evening by holding her hand and accompanying her to the tuition centre.
When the tuition was over, the girl noticed that Tham was waiting for her at the traffic light junction of Hougang Avenue 7 and Avenue 8.
He smiled at her and after she crossed the junction to where he was standing, Tham approached her, held her hand and walked with her.
He said he had seen her on several occasions.
Ten minutes later, when they arrived at the pavilion near Block 680 Hougang Avenue 8, he asked whether she needed to rest since she was limping.
Although she said no, Tham insisted. He then led her to the bench at the pavilion and they sat together.
While seated on her right, he asked about her school and her tuition schedule.
Suddenly, he hugged her across her chest, and placed his head on her shoulder for about a minute.
The victim felt it strange and became afraid. When he released her, she immediately stood up and turned away from him as she wanted to escape.
But he hugged her from her back briefly and wrapped his hands around her stomach. He then held her left hand and invited her to sit with him again, but she refused and walked away.
Tham caught up with her, held her arm and walked her up to the lift in one of the nearby blocks, before parting ways.
The victim had lied that she lived at that block as she was afraid and did not want him to know where she lived.
She ensured that he was out of sight before quickly walking over to her actual block. She then informed her father about the incident and they made a police report the next day.
In sentencing him, District Judge Lim Keng Yeow said offences involving such vulnerable victims must always result in more severe sentences on deterrent and retributive grounds.
He said undesired contact in the form of a hug using both hands occurred twice and they were by no means a brief fleeting touch or a light brush against the teen.
Tham's persistence, he said, would have caused the victim "much discomfort, if not even anxiety and some distress".
The prosecution's submission was for at least three months' jail.
Tham's pro bono lawyer Gino Hardial Singh sought three weeks' jail, saying his client was no sex predator and had touched the victim purely out of "loneliness".
Tham could have been jailed for up to two years, fined, caned or received any combined punishment for outrage of modesty.