Man gets 30 weeks' jail for molesting boy

Judge rejects 51-year-old's plea for short term or fine, citing need for deterrent sentence

A 51-year-old man who outraged the modesty of a then 13-year-old boy at a swimming pool washroom under the pretext of helping to tighten the victim's loose swimming trunks was convicted and jailed 30 weeks in the State Courts.

District Judge Lorraine Ho, who found Choo Lian Seng guilty after a two-day trial last November, rejected his plea for a short jail term or fine, stressing the need to protect young victims and deter others.

In judgment grounds issued last week, she said: "It is of paramount importance that vulnerable victims like youth and children need to be protected from harm when they are in public places, especially when using public facilities like public toilets and swimming pools.

"Acts of molestation cannot be condoned as these victims may grow up emotionally scarred by the ordeals faced."

The offence occurred on Aug 16, 2014, at the Woodlands Swimming Complex. The victim had gone to the male toilet following a swim to use the urinal and to tighten his swimming trunks.

The trunks were loose because it previously belonged to his father.

Choo, who was also in the toilet, saw the boy trying to untie the drawstring of his swimming trunks and approached him offering to help.

PROTECTING THE YOUNG

Acts of molestation cannot be condoned as these victims may grow up emotionally scarred by the ordeals faced.

DISTRICT JUDGE LORRAINE HO

The boy accepted the help of Choo, who then asked him some personal questions and led him to another part of the bathroom with his consent. At some point, Choo "fleetingly" touched the boy's private parts when he straightened the swimming trunks, which was "crumpled" because it was too loose.

Not knowing how to react, the boy continued tying the drawstring and left in a hurry.

He complained to his mother, who was at the swimming pool, and she alerted a lifeguard.

Choo's lawyers, Mr Kesavan Nair and Ms Melissa Leong, in disputing the charge, had argued that the victim's version was "inherently improbable", saying it was impossible for Choo to place half his hand at the bottom of the victim's trunks without the victim protesting or Choo getting caught by someone.

Among other things, they added that Choo was merely helping the boy like a father and nothing sinister had taken place.

Deputy Public Prosecutor James Choo pointed out that the victim had no reason to lie at all, was "unusually convincing", and that the accused's "suspicious actions" pointed to his guilt.

The judge found the victim a generally credible witness while the accused was evasive during the trial.

She held that the "substantive and circumstantial evidence" was strong enough to show Choo was guilty of outraging the modesty of the victim beyond reasonable doubt. She allowed a stay of the jail sentence, pending Choo's appeal.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 26, 2017, with the headline 'Man gets 30 weeks' jail for molesting boy'. Print Edition | Subscribe