SINGAPORE - A 36-year-old father of six was given a job by his neighbour, but ended up having sex with his employer's underage stepdaughter in the delivery van that was assigned to him for work.
The High Court heard on Wednesday (July 17) that the girl, who was 11 at the time, had sent the accused a text message saying that she liked him but knew he was married.
When he responded that men could have four wives, she asked if her age was a concern for him. "Age (is) just a number," he replied.
The accused was sentenced to 10 years' jail and six strokes of the cane after he pleaded guilty to a charge of statutory rape.
Three other charges - for committing an indecent act with a child, sexual assault by penetration, and possessing obscene films - were taken into consideration.
The parties are not named to protect the identity of the victim, who is now 13 years old.
The court heard that the victim and her family moved into the same neighbourhood as the accused in July 2017.
After being introduced to the accused by another neighbour, the families became close and had regular gatherings at their homes.
In early 2018, the girl's stepfather hired the accused to work in his transport company as an operations manager.
The girl began chatting with the accused on WhatsApp, unbeknown to their respective families, and expressed her feelings for him on March 16 last year.
In their WhatsApp messages, he called her "darling" and they sent each other pornographic videos.
Later that year, on the afternoon of May 10, the girl agreed to go to his flat at his suggestion.
Nobody else was at home as he touched her sexually on his bed. She left his flat after he told her he had to pick up his wife and children.
A few days later, on May 15, he picked her up in the van and asked her to sit on a sofa that had been placed at the back of the vehicle.
He then parked the van on Deck 6A of a nearby multi-storey carpark and had unprotected sex with her on the sofa.
The offences came to light on June 11 after the girl's parents became suspicious that she was communicating with the accused.
After some questioning, she confessed that she had engaged in sexual acts with him.
The stepfather called the police after confronting the accused, who admitted what he had done.
After his arrest on the same day, the accused told police that he had sex with her "for fun" and wanted to "entertain and let her experience the sexual acts".
Defence counsel Mohamed Fazal Abdul Hamid highlighted that it was not a case of "one-way traffic" and the accused had not expressly told the girl to keep the affair a secret.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Kavita Uthrapathy countered that the girl, being a child, was not in a position to appreciate or understand the implications of the sexual relationship.
Said the DPP: "The accused was the adult and should have known better than to engage in sexual activity with an underage girl. He knew it was an offence and still proceeded."