Man gets 20 years' jail for sexual assault on girl, 7

He had bought sweets, toys for his employer's granddaughter and became her 'best friend'

A 59-year-old man was sentenced to 20 years' jail yesterday for a string of sexual offences against his employer's granddaughter, from the time she was seven years old.

He was convicted of three counts of digital penetration - penetrative sexual assault using one or more fingers - without her consent, while another nine charges, including committing obscene acts with a child, were taken into consideration.

The High Court heard that the man had been employed since 2006 as a delivery driver for the restaurant owned by the girl's paternal grandfather.

The man bought sweets and toys for the girl, now nine, and her siblings, and was exceptionally close with her, to the point where she described him as her "best friend".

The man and the girl cannot be named due to a gag order.

In September 2015, when the girl was at the family's restaurant with her grandparents, the man took her to an office rest area that he knew had no surveillance cameras.

The girl sat on his lap and he sexually assaulted her. She displayed discomfort and the man stopped and told her: "Don't tell anyone, this is our secret."

He committed similar offences over the next few months. On one occasion, he promised to buy the girl fast food and she followed him into the delivery van he drove. Inside the parked van, the man committed an obscene act on the girl.

In June 2016, the girl's father fell out with her grandfather. The girl and her immediate family moved out of the grandfather's house.

The grandfather often asked the accused to take household items and food to the girl's home. He would sexually assault her during these visits.

On Dec 5, 2016, the man went to the victim's home to deliver a baby cot, and he sat down on the sofa with the girl.

The family maid was seated at the dining table, facing away from the sofa. The man showed the girl a pornographic video and sexually assaulted her. The maid then turned and noticed what he was doing, and heard the girl say: "Uncle, stop it."

When the man left, the maid asked the girl what happened and she began crying and recounting the experience. The maid reported the incident to the victim's grandfather. The family eventually reported the case to the police.

The girl explained that she did not tell anyone about the sexual offences, as she was scared that the man "wouldn't want her anymore".

Deputy Public Prosecutor David Khoo asked for a sentence of 28 years, noting that the man had betrayed the trust of his long-time employer, and that the girl was an "exceptionally vulnerable victim" due to her young age.

Mr Khoo added that the man had tried to morally corrupt the girl by showing her pornographic videos, and noted the element of pre-meditation due to how he "isolated the victim for the opportune time".

The man's lawyer, Mr Wee Hong Shern, said his client was lonely and lacked a conjugal relationship with his estranged wife. This was dismissed by Justice Woo Bih Li as "not a mitigating factor".

The man's sentence will start from his date in remand - Dec 12, 2016. He escaped being sentenced to caning because he is over 50.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 15, 2018, with the headline 'Man gets 20 years' jail for sexual assault on girl, 7'. Print Edition | Subscribe