A High Court judge has explained why he jailed a man for 20 years for sexually abusing his young niece over a three-year period, adding that the man's wife and the victim's elder sister had skewed their evidence towards clearing him.
The accused - a 51-year-old building site supervisor - was convicted of six charges, including rape, dating back to 2005 when the girl was just 12 years old and had looked up to him as a "father figure".
None of the parties can be named to protect the victim's identity.
Justice Tay Yong Kwang found the wife's and sister's evidence riddled with discrepancies and said in judgment grounds released last week: "This affected the weight I gave to their evidence."
He noted that the wife, a bank manager, said the man had been an important person in her life for 30 years, emotionally and financially, and did not want him jailed for long.
In addition, the victim's elder sister lived with the offender's family and regarded them as her main source of family support. She spoke well of the accused and described the victim as "manipulative".
As well as rape, the man was convicted of two counts of oral sex, one of sexual exploitation of a child, one of outraging her modesty and one of sexual assault of a minor.
The man, represented by lawyer N. Kanagavijayan, admitted the sexual assault, committed in 2008, but denied the other charges, claiming the acts were consensual.
The offences came to light in 2011 when the victim, now 23, confided in her probation officer when she was undergoing supervision for unrelated theft offences. She had kept quiet about the sexual incidents as she had no close friends, thought no one would believe her, and her relatives - including her mother - were all close to her uncle. A psychiatric report diagnosed her as suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder resulting from sexual assault.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Ong Luan Tze said the girl had looked up to the accused after her father died in 2003. They met often and spoke on the phone almost daily, even talking about sex. The victim said the sexual acts began on Feb 25, 2005, when her mother fell ill and was taken to hospital. The man abused his position to sexually groom her and perform sex acts without her consent.
Justice Tay found the victim's evidence on the whole "to be unusually convincing and truthful".
"I had no reservations about its reliability," he said, noting that the niece had no ulterior motive to fabricate details of the sexual acts.
The judge said that given the accused was on good terms with his niece until 2011, "she would not have... sought to put him away in prison with false allegations".
He found that the accused's evidence was "inconsistent and lacked credibility" and jailed him for 15 years for the 2006 rape and five years for forcing oral sex on the girl when she was 12. The two charges were to run consecutively, while four other charges drawing jail terms between one and five years were to run concurrently. Being over 50, the man was spared caning.