Judge slams lawyer in underage sex case who tried to blame victim

SINGAPORE - A former undergraduate who had sex with a 13-year-old girl has had his sentence increased, with the court slamming his former lawyer for trying to blame the victim.

The Nanyang Technological University student had coerced the teen into sex acts as they watched erotic film Fifty Shades Of Grey in his hostel room, sent her lewd photos of himself and pressured her to reciprocate.

But when he was hauled to court in 2018, his lawyer at the time, Mr S. Radakrishnan, made a "blatant and unapologetic attempt" to blame the victim by alluding to her supposed promiscuity and family background.

On Monday (Jan 25), High Court judge Aedit Abdullah lambasted the lawyer in his judgment following an appeal and increased the offender's original sentence of two years in jail by another nine months.

The judge dedicated an entire section of about five pages in his 51-page judgment to criticising Mr Radakrishnan's conduct.

"The assertions made essentially blamed the victim, alluded to her supposed promiscuity and ill-repute, and being the initiator of intimacy," he said.

"I simply cannot understand how such assertions could be made on instructions by an officer of the court... Mr Radakrishnan's submissions constituted a blatant and unapologetic attempt to foist responsibility and blame on the victim."

Justice Aedit noted that the lawyer also showcased photos of the victim, in what appeared to be an attempt to show her sexual maturity.

"On Mr Radakrishnan's accounts, it sounded as though it was the victim who had been sexually predatory and led the accused astray. I am appalled: The accused was the adult in the situation," he said.

"I hope that no submissions of this nature will be seen in our courts in the future."

Mr Radakrishnan was taken off the case when it was sent to appeal, with Mr Anand George taking over to represent the accused.

The accused, now 25, met the victim when they were both volunteering at a primary school in 2017 and engaged in sex acts at his home and the hostel. He later began working as a relief teacher at the girl's school. She told her form teacher, who informed her parents.

When confronted by the head of department and school principal, the accused at first denied the allegations and deleted their chat logs and photos.

He pleaded guilty in the State Courts last year to three charges of sexual penetration of a minor under 14. Eight similar charges were taken into consideration when he was sentenced to jail for two years by District Judge John Ng.

The prosecution, which had initially asked for 33 months' jail, appealed against the sentence. The accused also appealed, asking for probation instead of prison.

Justice Aedit dismissed the man's appeal, but agreed with the prosecution and sentenced him to 33 months in jail.

The sentence has been deferred, and the offender is expected to start serving his prison term on Feb 22. The court was told that he has since completed his university course with grades that would allow him to graduate with a third-class honours degree, but NTU has temporarily withheld his certificate.

For each count of sexual penetration of a minor under 14, he could have been jailed for up to 20 years, and fined and caned.

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