Catholic figure's sex offences: AGC declined request to partially lift gag order

·4 min read
The Singapore State Courts. (PHOTO: Dhany Osman / Yahoo News Singapore)
The Singapore State Courts. (PHOTO: Dhany Osman / Yahoo News Singapore)

UPDATE: Statement by the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) added.

SINGAPORE — The identity of the man jailed for unlawful sexual acts with two teenage boys while being a member of a religious order of the Catholic faith remains in the dark, after the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) declined a request by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Singapore to partially lift the gag order.

In a statement release on its website on Sunday (5 June), the Catholic Church said that it had made the request to AGC to lift the gag order in relation to the offender's identity, the name of the religious order, and details of the offender's subsequent treatment and postings.

"The AGC informed that they had carefully considered our request but were unable to accede to it," it said in the statement.

The offender, who is understood to not be a priest, was jailed for five years after committing the sexual acts on the teenagers between 2005 and 2007. The boys were between 14 and 15 at the time of the offences.

Details about the man and his victims cannot be disclosed due to a gag order, which also covers the man's designation and appointment and the address of the incident location.

In a separate statement on Monday, the AGC said that the gag order it had applied was specifically to protect the identity of the victims. "It was not in any way sought to protect the interests of the accused person, or of the Catholic Order involved."

The gag order covered the identity of the accused because his identification was likely to lead to the identification of the victims, the AGC said. "AGC’s paramount interest was, and remains, the protection of victims. We consider every request to lift a gag order carefully as victims’ interests are paramount."

Both victims repeatedly refused to make police report: Religious Order

A separate statement on Sunday from the Religious Order, whom the Catholic Church is working with to investigate the background of the offences, said that the local leader of the Religious Order first learnt of the incidents when one of the victims confided in him in 2009, after both had already left the school.

While the victims were provided with counselling support, both had repeatedly refused to make a police report.

"An investigation was immediately initiated by the superior of the Order for Singapore. The local leader and the superior were the only two persons in the Religious Order that were involved in the investigations," the statement said.

"Both victims were interviewed, and provided with counselling support. They were repeatedly told that they could make a police report and would be accompanied to the police station to do so. Both victims refused to do so and were insistent in wanting to keep the matter private."

The superior shifted his focus to the offender, whom the Religious Order said was "remorseful and expressed willingness to accept all consequences". He was immediately removed from his position and prevented from returning to the school premises.

Subsequently, the offender was sent for treatment, therapy and rehabilitation, beginning with an intensive six-month programme in the United States, paid for by the Religious Order. The treatment centre recommended that the offender not be placed in any setting that involves working with minors.

"The offender had to be posted to a different country, where he could undertake work that did not involve minors," the statement from the Religious Order said.

"The superior of the Order for Singapore also continued to monitor the offender in his subsequent posting, checking on the offender’s adherence to the restrictions imposed by his recovery programme and his commitment to continued therapy and recovery.

"To our knowledge, there are no other victims and the offender confirmed this."

Religious Order 'deeply dismayed, ashamed and sorry'

The offender returned to Singapore in 2020 to renew his visa but could not leave again due to the COVID-19 travel restrictions.

Later that year, his actions were brought to the attention of the school board. The Religious Order informed Archbishop William Goh thereafter in October 2020, whereupon the Archbishop gave instructions that the matter be reported to the police. A police report was lodged on 10 May 2021.

"The Religious Order is deeply dismayed, ashamed and sorry for the incidents, and remains committed to supporting the victims," the statement from the Religious Order said..

"The Order is committed to a zero tolerance for such behaviour. It has a safeguarding protocol with guidelines to prevent similar incidents. The protocol is reviewed regularly to ensure awareness and adherence. The protocol also states that all such incidents must be immediately reported to the civil authorities and the Archbishop of Singapore."

The Catholic Church also said in its statement that the Religious Orders and all religious sponsoring authorities for Catholic Schools have been reminded of their obligation to report immediately to the police once they become aware of incidents involving alleged offences against minors or vulnerable persons.

"The Church will not tolerate behaviour by clergy or religious that will put others at risk," it said.

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