SINGAPORE - A man who was part of a Catholic religious order that established a school in Singapore, was sentenced to five years' jail on Thursday (May 5) for committing unlawful sexual acts with two teenage boys.
The Singaporean, who The Straits Times understands is not a priest, pleaded guilty to one charge of voluntarily having carnal intercourse against the order of nature and one charge under the Children and Young Persons Act.
Two other charges were taken into consideration during sentencing.
Details about the man, who is in his 60s, and his victims cannot be disclosed due to a gag order. The gag order also covers the man's designation and appointment and the address of the incident location.
While he had committed the sex acts on the boys without the use of threats, force or coercion, Deputy Public Prosecutors Sarah Siaw and Gail Wong highlighted that he had been in "a position of significant influence and authority" at the time of his offences, and had sexually groomed the two boys.
In court documents, they said that as a member of the religious order, the offender had taken a vow of celibacy and was never married.
In the Catholic Church, a religious order is a community in which its members profess solemn vows and the orders include friars, nuns and lay persons.
The man, who was close to both the victims, committed the sex act on the first victim some time in 2005, and the second victim some time between April and December 2007.
The boys were between 14 and 15 at the time of the offences.
In the lead-up to both cases, he had given them massages multiple times in his room.
These eventually progressed to massages where the boys were fully nude and, in time, the man performed sexual acts on them on multiple occasions.
The man taught the first victim religious and moral education in lower secondary school. They became very close and affectionate with each other, hugging often.
The man also often went out for meals with the victim and his family, and also got the victim to help him with various tasks around the school.
The prosecution told the court on Thursday: "(The victim) would often confide in the accused and the latter would advise him. The accused began to develop strong feelings for (the victim)."
The second victim, too, had assisted the offender with tasks around school, including helping to move items in and out of his room in his residence.
The pair began exchanging hugs as their usual form of greeting whenever they met.
The offences came to light after the second victim left school some time in 2009.
Struggling emotionally and socially with various issues, he felt disgusted about the sexual acts that the offender had performed on him.
He told a sector leader of the man's religious order, but did not want to make a police report at that time.
Upon being questioned by his religious superior, the offender admitted that the allegations were true. He was immediately suspended from participating in school activities and prevented from returning to the school premises.
The Straits Times has contacted the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Singapore to find out why a police report was not made when the offences first came to light.
In June 2009, the man left Singapore to receive treatment in the United States under a six-month therapy programme. Court documents did not say what sort of therapy this was.
"As no police reports were lodged by the victims, he was not under police investigation then," said the prosecution.
After completion of his therapy programme, the man was posted to a different country, where he was no longer involved with minors.
He did not contact the victims after going to the US in 2009.
In March 2020, he returned to Singapore to renew his missionary visa but was unable to return to his posting due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Sometime in late 2020, his history was brought to the attention of the school board. The chairman of the school's board lodged a police report on May 10 last year, following an internal inquiry.
The police arrested the man on Jan 18 this year after investigations.
DPP Wong and Siaw asked for four to six years' jail for the man, whom they said had exploited his position of trust and authority in the school.
There was also an element of sexual grooming and escalation, they added.
Referring to the second victim, they said: "(The victim) regarded the accused as a spiritual mentor... It was because of his position and their relationship that (the victim) went over to the accused's residence where the sexual acts occurred."
The offender was represented by Mr Edmond Pereira, who said in mitigation that his client had undergone four to five years of therapy and was at a very low risk of re-offending.
He added that there is no evidence that the victims, who are now professionals and have their own families, have been psychologically affected by the incidents.
For voluntarily having carnal intercourse against the order of nature, the man could have been jailed for up to 10 years and fined.
For committing an offence under the Children and Young Persons Act, the man could have been jailed for up to two years and fined up to $5,000, if it had been his first offence.
If he is a repeat offender, he can be jailed for up to four years and fined up to $10,000 for each charge.