SINGAPORE — A trainee teacher had a relationship with a 15-year-old female student he first met during his training stint and was intimate with her until her mother found her missing from home at dawn.
The girl, now 17, had been sneaking from her house during late nights to visit her former teacher, now 27, in his room three to four times a week to cuddle and watch movies.
The man was jailed for 16 months on Tuesday (18 January) after pleading guilty to two out of four counts of committing an indecent act with a child, with the remaining two similar counts considered for his sentencing.
The victim and accused man cannot be named to protect her identity. The man is no longer a teacher and works as a private hire driver.
Then in secondary 3, the girl was taught by the man, who was a trainee teacher with the National Institute of Education attached to the school. The girl and her friends also sought help from the man for another subject.
During one consultation, she exchanged contact details with the man and their exchanges increased in frequency over time. She began communicating with him on a daily basis and would confide in the man about her issues at school.
By end November 2019, the man had completed his training and was no longer teaching at the girl’s school.
However, the girl reached out to him for private tuition, with the permission of her parents. The teacher started having private lessons with her, first at her house on a weekly basis, then at his house.
By end 2019, both had developed a liking for each other. The girl began spending the night at his house about three to four times a week without her parents’ knowledge in December 2019 and January 2020.
She would wait for her family members to go to bed between 10pm and 12am then sneak out of her house. In his room, the two would then watch movies, chat, play games, be intimate or sleep until around 4am, when the girl would return home in a private hire car.
On 13 February 2020, the victim’s mother woke at around 6.15am and found that her daughter was not in her bed. She tried to call her daughter on her mobile phone but could not reach her.
She felt that something was amiss and asked the man where her daughter was. The man received the mother’s messages but ignored them and only responded when the girl left his house.
He feigned ignorance and pretended to be concerned about her daughter's whereabouts. When the girl returned home near 8am, she kept quiet about her whereabouts but later confessed to an aunt that she liked the man. Feeling something was not right, the mother lodged a police report on 16 February and the girl came clean about being in the man’s house.
The man admitted during investigations that he knew the victim was “too young to make sound decisions about certain things”. He knew his relationship with the victim was “wrong on many levels” but viewed it as “temporary” with “an expiration date”. He had a girlfriend then and said it would not be “right” and “fair” to leave her for the victim.
Man was 'emotionally stunted'
The man’s lawyer, James Ow Yong, noted that his client’s offences had occurred after he completed his training stint at the school.
“The accused engaged with the student while still at (the school) and he had significantly assisted in her studies and it was from this context that the victim requested for him to continue teaching her even outside his (training),” he said.
He also pointed out that the girl had gone to the man’s house for tuition out of convenience rather than “connivance on accused person’s part”.
While the man was deeply remorseful for his poor choices, his lawyer urged the court to see that the relationship was mutual and that there was no “predatory conduct, coercion or manipulation”.
The man himself had grown up in a broken family and had felt lonely, depressed and suicidal at times. When he was a teenager, he developed a "beyond a typical" relationship with a secondary school teacher, Ow Yong added. The lawyer submitted a psychiatric report which stated that the man suffered from maltreatment akin to child abuse or neglect, and was “emotionally stunted”.
The man’s sister had also submitted a reference letter to the court, stating that the man had always been respectful to the girlfriends he had brought home.
However the prosecution, which sought 16 months’ jail, said that the man had not been truthful in his account to a psychiatrist, as he had denied any intimacy with the victim. This demonstrated a lack of remorse, Deputy Public Prosecutor Colin Ng said.
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