Minister notes disquiet over underage sex case

Mr Shanmugam said yesterday that the case is not over yet as there is still time to file an appeal. Therefore, it is not appropriate for him to comment.
Mr Shanmugam said yesterday that the case is not over yet as there is still time to file an appeal. Therefore, it is not appropriate for him to comment.ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

Shanmugam says he understands AGC is looking into sentence of American trainer

Despite "public disquiet" about the sentence of an American mixed martial arts instructor jailed last Thursday for offences including sex with minors, it is not an appropriate time to comment on the case, said Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam yesterday.

He said the case is not over yet as there is still time to file an appeal. Therefore, it was not appropriate for him to comment, he added. He said he understands the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) is looking into the matter.

The instructor, Joshua Robinson, 39, was sentenced to four years' jail after pleading guilty to making obscene films and having consensual sex with minors, among other charges. He had unprotected sex with two 15-year-old girls and showed an obscene clip to a third girl, who was only six years old.

He was also found to possess 321 films containing child pornography, with children as young as two years old. It is believed to be the largest haul of its kind taken from a single person in Singapore.

Mr Shanmugam, speaking on the sidelines of a fund-raising cycling event, said: "The AGC makes the decisions based on precedents, and what kind of sentence is meted out depends on previous cases.

"Having said that, my understanding is that the AGC is looking into this. I can understand that there is public disquiet about the sentence. People are naturally upset, parents in particular."

Robinson's jail term has attracted much public discussion.

In a Facebook post last Friday that has since been taken down, the father of the six-year-old girl said he was disappointed with the jail term, and called it "a slap on the wrist".

An online petition against the sentence, started on Sunday, has attracted more than 10,000 signatures. Started by a Ms Sarah Woon on Change.org, the petition called the sentence "unacceptable".

Yesterday, Mr Shanmugam also commented on the sharp rise in online drug peddling last year, with 201 people arrested for buying drugs or drug-related paraphernalia online, up from 30 in 2015. They were mostly aged between 20 and 39.

He said it is a challenge to detect drugs delivered by couriers in innocuous-looking parcels. He added that the authorities have to adapt as technology and means of peddling drugs change.

In terms of tackling the challenges, he said there is "closer cooperation with our overseas counterparts" and with those in the logistics industry.

He said: "We see millions of packages, and we are a big commercial centre. Commercial life has got to carry on, and at the same time, we've got to detect (the drugs)."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 07, 2017, with the headline 'Minister notes disquiet over underage sex case'. Print Edition | Subscribe