A 42-year-old man being accused of sexual assault now faces more serious charges since his guilty plea was turned down, after he told the High Court that the victim — his 12-year-old stepdaughter who was aged eight and nine at the time of the alleged sexual assaults — had made advances on him, and led him on.
There is a court-mandated gag order against releasing the name of the accused, to protect the identity of the victim.
The accused had started to have daily access to the victim in April 2013, when the victim’s mother had married him. The mother had gained custody of all four of her children after having gone through a divorce with the victim’s biological father in 2009.
The stepfather allegedly began preying on his ward less than two years later, around Jan 2015, when the child was living in her maternal grandparents’ home. At the time, there had been 12 people living in the home: the victim, her maternal grandparents, her mother, her stepfather, her three biological siblings, her two half-siblings, a grand-aunt and a domestic helper.
The court heard that the victim, who had called the accused “abah”, or “father” in Malay, had slept in the same bedroom as her mother, the accused and her half-siblings.
When the abuse started, the stepfather touched the victim’s private parts over her clothes. Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Kavitha Uthrapathy said that the audacity of the sex acts grew as the accused’s “lust for his stepdaughter grew” and the sexual abuse continued for several months until 14 Oct 2016.
The court heard that the accused would sometimes commit the sex acts against the victim as he lay in bed with the child’s mother. Afraid that her stepfather would get angry at her, the child pretended to sleep.
The victim’s biological father, who was in regular touch with the victim, noticed that his daughter was reluctant to return to her maternal grandparents’ home after spending time with him but chalked it up to her wanting to spend more time with him.
On 17 Oct 2016, however, he became suspicious when his daughter became hysterical when it was time for her to go back home. The child eventually revealed that she had been sexually assaulted by her stepfather and her father lodged a police report the very next day. The victim has since moved in with her biological father and his wife.
The accused did not deny what he had done when he was asked if he agreed with the statement of facts presented in court on Tuesday (May 14). However, he claimed that certain accounts of what had taken place had been omitted from the statement.
One of the things that the accused believed had been omitted was his claim that the child had made advances on him by having taken his hands and placed them on her private parts. He claimed that he had rejected these alleged advances.
The stepfather, however, claimed that he wanted to plead guilty since he felt the case had gone on for too long and had caused undue stress to his family and him. He added, “Only God can help me now.”
DPP Kavita noted that the accused made it seem as though he was “being forced to plead guilty, when it is not the case.” Since the accused did not accept the statement of facts, Justice Valerie Thean promptly rejected the accused’s guilty plea and raised his bail from S$50,000 to S$80,000.
The prosecution then withdrew their guilty plea offer and the accused’s lawyer, Mr Tan Jeh Yaw, discharged himself from the case. The accused now faces a new set of charges, including the more serious charge of attempted rape of a minor.
Previously, the stepfather had planned on pleading guilty to one charge of sexually assaulting his stepdaughter in 2015 and two charges of outraging her modesty in 2016. He also faced seven charges of aggravated outrage of the child.
If found guilty of the charge of attempted rape of a minor — a charge for which the prosecution, as part of the previous guilty plea deal, had sought a discharge not amounting to an acquittal, the accused could now face a maximum of 20 years in jail. He could also receive at least 12 strokes of the cane./TISG