"The girl lacked maturity and was entitled to legal protection, .... Any "presumed willingness" on her part had no mitigating value" - Senior District Judge See Kee Oon
Former principal Lee has been sentenced to 9 weeks jail. During his sentencing, the judge said the behavior of the girl and her "presumed willingness" does not matter. This is very interesting. In the application of a law that is intended to protect victims of exploitation, it does not matter if girl is exploited or a willing party that benefited from the transaction.Looks like defense counsel Subhas Anandan's 'a hardcore prostitute' defense might not be enough to get his clients off the hook with this judge. It was also reported that the girl was 6 months shy of her 18th birthday - 6 months later she did not need protection....a real befuddling technicality. 18 is just an arbitrary age set by law makers in parliament but the law is applied mechanically
I looked around to check versions of similar laws in other countries. In a case involving French footballers, the police dropped the case when they were satisfied the men did not know the girl was underage[French prosecutors accept that Ribery did not know prostitute was a minor]. California allows the following defense:
"You honestly and reasonably believed that the alleged victim was over 18
If you honestly and reasonably believed that the all
eged victim was over 18 at the time you had sex, you can't be convicted under California statutory rape law.14 The types of evidence that can support your claim could include, for example:
- statements made by the alleged victim that he/she was over the age of 18,
- his/her attire and general appearance, and
- where you met the alleged victim (at an adult party or venue, for example." [Link]
Allowing such a defense may lead to fairer outcomes.
The judge insisted that the onus is on the man to check:
" Given the circumstances, Lee's suspicion ought to have been aroused and he should have asked for proof of her age, the judge said. "Had she refused to show identification, he should have walked away".....
Most sex workers will never show their identity cards or passport to a customer because they don't know who the customer is and are afraid of blackmail or harassment later on - for this reason, working girls don't use their real names. The judge expects men to walk off should the sex worker refuse to show their identity card. I wonder how practical it is given that these men are already overcome by lust and have gone all the way to meet the woman at the hotel room....the judge expects them to "walk away".
At the end of the day what these men have done is morally incorrect. However, there are many men who commit adultery and part-take in worse forms of immorality - the law does not go after them....this piece of law is not intended to go after men for their immorality but set out to protect the vulnerable. These men have their lives, families and careers crushed to protect someone who may not need protection. They had no intention to break the law, didn't know they broke the law and following the law would have required them to do something that is impractical and unnatural - so how many men asked the 17 year old for her IC and walked out when she refused to show it?
There are some who always enjoy watching the rich and successful fall, shamed and exposed But they deserve to be treated fairly like every other Singaporean even when they have done something wrong.