Stepdad cleared of sex-abuse charges

Girl - then 13 - had accused him of molesting her, but later tells court that she lied to police

A 42-year-old man was yesterday acquitted of four charges of sex offences against his stepdaughter, after the High Court found reasonable doubt in the truth of the girl's accusations.

The main evidence for the prosecution was two statements the girl had given to the police in reporting her stepfather for molestation, in which the 13-year-old detailed how he had violated her at home one afternoon on July 27, 2012.

Her allegations led to four charges against the accused - three counts of committing an indecent act with a child and one count of sexual assault by penetration.

But when she took the stand to testify during his trial earlier this year, the girl, now 17, recanted her allegations.

When the prosecution tried to elicit her testimony to set out her case, she either said she could not remember the event in question, or claimed that nothing happened.

Cross-examined by the defence, she said she had lied to the police.

She said a week before the trial, she confirmed to the police that her first statement was true. But when the trial started, she decided to stop lying and that her stepfather should not be punished for something he did not do.

While she said she had made up the incident, she could not say what had led her to lie about him.

Her mother and an aunt also testified that she had made false accusations about others in the past: for instance that her paternal grandfather had hit her with a stick, her maternal grandmother had thrown a stool at her, and that she had been beaten up by some girls in school.

The girl's mother, who is financially dependent on the accused, denied putting pressure on her daughter to change her testimony.

In a written judgment yesterday, Justice Woo Bih Li said it was clear she "had chosen not to give any substantive evidence during examination-in-chief for reasons best known to herself and not because she could not truly remember".

The judge noted that even though she was allowed to refer to her statements to refresh her memory, she did not want to read them.

Prosecution witnesses including the aunt, a school teacher and the girl's best friend said she told them what her stepfather did. But the girl either said she could not remember or had lied to them.

The accused, who was on bail, denied committing any of the alleged acts. He surmised that his stepdaughter had falsely accused him because he had rejected her feelings for him and she wanted attention from her mother.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 26, 2016, with the headline 'Stepdad cleared of sex-abuse charges'. Subscribe