New Sentencing Benchmarks for Child Molest Cases

A new judgment released on Tuesday, 21 November 2017 comes down harder on perpetrators of aggravated outrage of modesty cases involving children below 14 years of age.

The Case

Justice See Kee Oon dismissed an appeal by a 45-year-old Singaporean man, who had molested his then 13-year-old niece in the confines of his home in 2014. The judge increased the man’s jail term to 25 months, just 2 months shorter than what the prosecution had argued for in its cross-appeal. The man was also subjected to 4 strokes of the cane, unchanged from his original sentence.

The man, who is married with no children, had invited his niece over to his house in the afternoon of 10 February 2014. This was on the pretext that it would be more conducive for her to do her school work there. Her parents were not there as they had been involved in a domestic dispute the previous day. The man and his niece were alone in the house, after his wife had left for work.

While sitting next to the niece on the sofa in the living room, he started fondling her breasts and touching her private parts. She had objected, but had later complied out of fear. The man was first sentenced by a District Judge in May this year after a five-day trial.

The New Guidelines

Justice See believes that a ‘significant uplift is necessary’ for such offences. In giving the grounds for his judgment, he provided that the court should first ascertain 3 categories of aggravating factors:

    1. Degree of sexual exploitation (i.e. how and where the victim was molested and duration of act) → For instance, the offence is aggravated if there is skin-to-skin contact
    2. Circumstances of the offence (e.g. the use of force or violence; the abuse of a position of trust)
    3. Harm caused to victim (e.g. physical; psychological)

After assessing the gravity of the situation, the court should then place the offence within one of three bands to determine the appropriate punishment:

    • FIRST BAND: the lowest end of the spectrum of seriousness, with at most one aggravating factor. For example, a fleeting touch or caress. This would stipulate a jail term of less than one year.
    • SECOND BAND: two or more aggravating factors. For example, contact with the victim’s private parts. Notably, skin-to-skin contact with the victim’s private parts as well as contact with the victim’s private parts over clothing, both fall within this band, with the former attracting an obviously higher sentence. This would stipulate a jail term of 1-3 years, accompanied with at least 3 strokes of the cane (suggested).
    • THIRD BAND: aggravating factors considered to be more serious than that punishable under the second band. This would stipulate a jail term of 3-5 years accompanied with at least 6 strokes of the cane (suggested).

Final Sentence (Applying guidelines)

Based on the aggravating factors in the present case, Justice See found that the man’s conduct fell within the middle to upper range of the second band, inviting a sentence of at least 24 months. He noted that the sexual exploitation lasted for a “substantial period” and there was a degree of premeditation, as well as abuse of a position of trust.

Our Criminal Lawyer, Mr Amarjit Singh Sidhu, has defended numerous clients over the years over a wide variety of offences. With vast experience in Singapore’s laws, Mr Amarjit Singh Sidhu will be able to provide valuable and timely advice for your situation. For more information, or if you have been caught in a similar situation, feel free to contact us for a consultation.

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