SINGAPORE: He was hired to give a 12-year-old girl private tuition for her Primary School Leaving Examinations (PSLE), but instead he was intimate with her during lessons and eventually raped her thrice.
The 43-year-old man, who cannot be named as it will identify the victim, was sentenced to 10 years and 10 months' jail and 12 strokes of the cane on Wednesday (Feb 5) for two counts of statutory rape and another charge of an indecent act with a child.
Another four charges were taken into consideration, including the third rape charge.
The court heard that the victim lived with her parents and younger sister.
In early 2017, when she was in Primary 5, she went for regular mathematics tuition at a tuition centre where the accused held a freelance job.
The man, then 41, gave his number to all his students and encouraged them to call him if they had any problems, and told the victim to confide in him.
They started texting each other, with their conversations becoming increasingly intimate and personal by the end of 2017.
The tutor told the girl that "he liked her the best, as a student, out of his whole class".
In return, she said she considered him her "soulmate", and agreed to become his girlfriend in April 2018.
They began dating, going for meals and hanging out at shopping malls, holding hands like a couple, said Deputy Public Prosecutors Asoka Markandu and Eugene Teh.
GIRL KEPT RELATIONSHIP SECRET, RECOMMENDED TUTOR TO PARENTS
The girl kept her relationship a secret from her parents, and recommended the man to her parents as a tutor as it was her PSLE year.
Her parents hired the accused to provide one-on-one tuition to their older daughter for Math, Science and English at their home.
He began giving her private tuition classes weekly on Sunday for four hours, from May 2018.
Between May 2018 and September 2018, there were several occasions when the tutor was intimate with the victim during the lessons, said the prosecutors.
During this period, the tutor was cohabiting with his girlfriend and engaging in sexual activities with her.
In late May 2018, shortly after the victim turned 12, the tutor picked the girl up from her school and drove her to a mall in Woodlands.
They entered a toilet for the disabled and kissed and touched each other in what was the victim's first sexually intimate experience with her tutor.
FIRST RAPED HER IN A TOILET AT A MALL
They went to Bukit Panjang Plaza months later on Dec 5, 2018, having arranged to have sex.
The tutor knew that the victim was a virgin, but he went with her into a toilet for the disabled, where he raped her.
He raped her again about a week later at his own home, and a third time that month.
The girl went on holiday to Malaysia with her parents in late December 2018 when they noticed that she was busy sending messages on her phone.
They questioned her and realised that she was contacting her tutor, the court heard.
The girl's mother demanded to look at the messages, but the girl refused. Her father intervened and took the phone from her, and the illicit relationship was revealed.
They forbade her from having any further contact with the accused, and the girl's father filed a police report saying he had found "sexually suggestive messages between my daughter and her tuition teacher".
Deputy Public Prosecutor Asoka Markandu asked for a sentence of at least 11 years' jail and 12 strokes of the cane.
He said the tutor "showed no qualms in abusing the trust reposed in him by an exceptionally vulnerable victim and her parents".
AN ESCALATION OF SEXUAL INTIMACY: PROSECUTOR
He noted that there was an escalation of sexual intimacy between May 2018 and December 2018, culminating with three counts of statutory rape in the last month.
"The escalation of sexual activities between the accused and the victim strongly suggests that there was an element of sexual grooming involved," said Mr Asoka.
"The incidents of sexual intimacy was not limited to a single isolated act and was also committed in the privacy of the victim's home, during tuition class," he said.
"Children, such as the victim, are vulnerable and often lack the emotional and intellectual maturity to make important decisions about their lives, including those pertaining to sexual conduct and behaviour."
He said the accused had been engaged by the victim's parents to prepare her for PSLE, but instead abused his position and developed an intimate relationship with her.
"At the material time, the accused was also cohabiting and engaging in sexual activities with his girlfriend," he said.
He added that while the victim had developed a liking for the tutor and consented to the sexual acts, the man had "a responsibility not to take advantage of her naivety or to exploit her for his own sexual gratification".
"At that tender age, the victim was not in a position to appreciate or understand the implications of a sexual relationship," said Mr Asoka.
ACCUSED WAS A CARING TUTOR: DEFENCE
Defence lawyer Raphael Louis asked instead for nine years and eight months' jail and six strokes of the cane.
He said his client had no previous convictions, pleaded guilty early, and did a good job in his 10 years as a "caring" tutor.
This was relevant because of his potential to be rehabilitated, said the lawyer.
"He went the extra mile to help his students academically and emotionally," said Mr Louis. "He would also buy assessment books, (he) was friendly and approachable."
"Unfortunately, because of his friendly demeanour ... he didn't draw proper boundaries with the victim."
The lawyer said "there is no excuse for what my client has done", and that "he deserves to be punished", but said he had to ensure the punishment was fair and not harsh.
Justice Valerie Thean said she found that there was a "serious breach of trust", and noted that the victim was 12.
For each count of statutory rape, the tutor could have been sentenced to up to 20 years and fined or caned.