SINGAPORE — A man began molesting his adopted daughter when she was six and still in kindergarten.
The victim, now 18, did not know that the acts were wrong until she attended sex education when she was 11. She also did not know she was adopted until after she made a police report against her father 11 years after she was first molested.
The adoptive father, 65, was a hawker who was married. He shared a flat in Punggol with his wife and their daughter, whom the couple adopted when she was an infant. While the man doted on the girl, his wife took the role of the disciplinarian.
He was sentenced to 32 months and 10 weeks’ jail on Thursday (18 November) after he pleaded guilty to one count of molesting a person under 14, and one count of molest. The 10-week jail term was imposed in lieu of caning, as the man cannot be caned since he is above 50 years old.
Another two charges against the victim of a similar nature were considered for his sentencing.
All parties in the case cannot be named due to a gag order protecting the victim’s identity. The victim is currently studying in a polytechnic.
In 2009, when the victim was six, she returned home from her kindergarten graduation performance and rested on her bed. She was dressed in a top and shorts. Her father lay beside her, grabbed her hand and placed it on his genitals. The girl did not react as she did not understand what he was doing.
The man then undressed and made the girl perform a sexual act on him. He also molested her.
She did not know the man’s actions constituted sexual assault, until she attended sex education in school in 2014, when she was in Primary 5. She did not tell anyone abut the acts, fearing that she would not be believed. However, she began staying out late to avoid going home.
In 2018, when the girl was 15, she had a heated argument in the family’s flat with the man's wife - her adoptive mother - who then threw the girl’s phone on the floor. The father gave the victim money to repair her phone.
When the victim turned around to drink water in the kitchen, her father hugged her from behind and whispered, “Now that I have passed you money, I can touch you.” He molested the girl.
In retaliation, the girl said "no", elbowed him and returned to her room.
At one point, the girl's adoptive mother found out that her daughter had been drinking alcohol and chased her out of the flat. The girl had in fact been drinking to suppress her feelings over the sexual assault.
Left without a place to sleep, she spoke to a friend, who advised her to speak to a trusted adult. The girl revealed the sexual assault to her school counsellor and principal, and later lodged a police report on 2 October 2020. The father was then arrested.
During investigations, the man confessed that he knew molesting his adopted daughter was wrong.
The prosecution sought a jail term of 35 months, and an additional 16 weeks in lieu of caning.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Eugene Lee pointed out that the caning would be imposed in cases where there was intrusion on private parts. Caning would have been imposed if not for the man’s age, he said. The girl's age of six years old at the time of the first offence was “very far” from the statutory age of 14, he added, urging District Judge Janet Wang to consider the factor.
The man’s lawyer, Raphael Louis, said that while there was no excuse for the serious crime his client had committed, he had a heart condition.
“(The prosecution) suggested my client knew he would be exempted from caning, there’s no basis for that assertion, my client is lowly educated, he mans a hawker stall… there’s absolutely no basis for a submission to be made that he knew that if he was caught he would not be caned.”
On the issue of jail term in lieu of caning, DJ Wang stated that the offences were committed within the sanctity of a family home and that the man had offended over nine years, abusing the trust of his daughter. His act of giving her gratification before molesting her also displayed an “insidious element of sexual grooming”.
The victim also suffered serious psychological damage and consumed alcohol to cope with it.
“It is therefore fortuitous to hear that she has struck out an independent life,” the judge added.
She agreed with the prosecution that caning would ordinarily be imposed for cases where molest victims are below 14 and have their private parts intruded into, hence warranting additional jail term.
“On a final note, this is a sad case. It will take many years for parties involved to mend ties and achieve reconciliation, if at all,” said the judge.
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