SINGAPORE: A 20-year-old man was on Monday (Jan 22) sentenced to reformative training with a minimum detention period of a year for raping a 14-year-old girl when he was 16.
The offence, which took place in a public toilet in late June 2020, was allegedly aided by the girl’s then boyfriend, who held her down while the rape went on.
To protect the identity of the victim, all parties cannot be named.
The offender pleaded guilty previously to one count of rape. While the defence asked for reformative training for the youth, the prosecution pushed for eight to 10 years’ jail and six to eight strokes of the cane.
Reformative training is a harsher punishment than probation that detains younger offenders in a structured environment with an emphasis on rehabilitation.
The offender knew the girl from school. His girlfriend was also the victim’s best friend at the time.
The victim’s then boyfriend, named as CPT in court documents, is seven years her senior. On the night of Jun 27, 2020, CPT was at Admiralty Park with the victim, drinking alcohol.
When the offender saw the drinking session in a livestream the victim posted on social media, he asked to join her, saying he had just argued with her best friend and was feeling stressed.
The couple agreed and he went over to the park.
While they were there, the victim threw up and her boyfriend asked her to wash up at a public toilet.
While she was in a cubicle, the two youths went to look for her, and the offender suddenly threw her jacket over her face and held it there.
He then raped the girl while CPT held her down.
CPT later blamed the girl for having sex with the offender and they quarrelled before CPT took her home. The girl later broke up with CPT and her mother lodged a police report.
CPT has been charged with abetting rape and his case is pending.
HE IS VICTIM-BLAMING, PROSECUTION SAYS
Deputy Public Prosecutor Yvonne Poon on Monday reiterated her call for jail and caning for the young offender.
She pointed to the Reformative Training Centre (RTC) report on the case where she said the man sought to justify his actions.
“He minimised his responsibility and resorted to blaming not only the co-accused but also the victim for the offence,” said Ms Poon.
“He factually stated that he was asked repeatedly by his co-accused to do it, and characterised it as being forced to rape the victim.”
Ms Poon said the offender had an electric scooter with him at the time and was “absolutely free to leave the scene if he had indeed felt afraid”.
“The accused even went on to castigate the victim for her dressing and her everyday behaviour around her best friend and the accused,” said Ms Poon. “Your honour, this is the very essence of victim-blaming.”
She highlighted that the “heinousness of the accused’s crime is underscored by his deflection of responsibility and his obvious failure or refusal to comprehend the atrociousness of his offence”.
Ms Poon said the real subject of coercion and the one who was outnumbered and physically overpowered was the victim – a 14-year-old girl at the mercy of the two older males.
Defence lawyer Mato Kotwani from PDLegal said the RTC report had found his client suitable for RTC.
He said his client had acknowledged his wrong, and explained his responses laid out in the RTC report.
“We understand from our client that when he was volunteering this information during the interview process, the context as to why he said this, he was explaining his past behaviour, that is not to say he continues to hold these views today,” said Mr Kotwani.
He said the defence team was “also quite surprised” to read the responses and that they had asked their client again about his answers.
What the prosecution called victim-blaming was just the offender sharing what he had thought in the past, which was also what he recalled sharing in his police statements, said the lawyer.
“He made it clear to us that these are not the views he presently holds and he knows what he did was wrong and he does not blame the victim,” said Mr Kotwani. “This is in fact why he also took the opportunity to request to deliver an apology to the victim at the last guilty plea hearing.”
In sentencing, Justice Pang Khang Chau noted that the offender met the technical requirements for RTC.
While the prosecution had pushed for jail and caning, and the judge noted that rape is a serious offence, Justice Pang said RTC should not be simplistically ruled out for any “particular genus of offences”.
He said the overall seriousness of this case was “not at the extreme high end”. There was no premeditation – the youth had committed the offence as a result of repeated instigation by the victim’s boyfriend, and the offence was “of a short duration and no violence was used”, said the judge.
On whether he was a hardened and recalcitrant offender, Justice Pang noted that the youth had no previous record of such offences.
While he was previously sentenced to RTC for theft, the rape offence happened before his RTC term, so the rape offence cannot be taken as an indication that the RTC term did not rehabilitate him, said the judge.
The offender was fidgeting and shifting about repeatedly in the dock as he listened to the sentencing remarks.
Justice Pang said he was prepared to give the offender the benefit of the doubt on his explanation for his remarks dubbed “victim-blaming” by the prosecution.
Even if the prosecution was right and he was victim-blaming, the judge said he did not consider this sufficient to classify the offender as a hardened or recalcitrant offender to the extent that he cannot benefit from RTC.
He sentenced the young man to RTC with a minimum detention period of a year, to take effect on Monday.
“I need to remind you that this is your last chance,” the judge said to the offender. “You are already 20 years old. If you ever commit any other offences, you will be treated as an adult, and the sentencing options of an adult cannot be avoided.”
A female family member sitting in the public gallery began to cry at this point. A second relative followed suit soon after.
“You need to bear this in mind and live your life as a lawful citizen after you are released,” continued Justice Pang. “You need to respect other people’s rights, act from a sense of right and wrong and resist influence by others.”