SINGAPORE: Former principal of Pei Chun Public School Lee Lip Hong has been sentenced to nine weeks’ jail for having paid sex with a minor.
He pleaded guilty on Friday morning.
He faced two counts but the court proceeded with one and took into consideration the second charge.
In passing sentence, Senior District Judge See Kee Oon stressed the need to "reinforce a message of deterrence".
He acknowledged that there was active representation on the website, as well as verbal assurance from the girl and text messages from the pimp.
However, the judge said Lee stopped short of checking against the inconsistencies of the various sources, and "allowed himself to be misled".
He added that Lee had chosen to "actively seek out her services" and made this decision consciously.
The judge also highlighted the girl’s age, saying the law was put in place to protect the young and vulnerable.
He said the girl lacked maturity and was entitled to legal protection.
He added that any "presumed willingness" on her part had no mitigating value.
However, the Judge also noted that Lee committed the offence outside the scope of duties as an educator and did not abuse or exploit his position.
He also acknowledged Lee’s decision to plead guilty early, saying it showed he was remorseful.
Earlier, the court heard that Lee first came to know of the girl’s services from an Internet vice website.
He then procured her services through the website, which stated the girl’s age as 18 years old.
Lee’s lawyer Melanie Ho told the court that her client was misled about the girl’s real age.
She said that when he met the girl’s pimp, Tang Boon Thiew, he was told that the girl was 19 years old.
Ms Ho said Lee had no reason to suspect that she was younger than her stated age on the website.
She said when Lee met the girl, she told him she was 19 years old.
Ms Ho said Lee did not suspect anything was wrong and had no reason to doubt her stated age, based on her physical appearance, demeanour and maturity.
Lee broke down during the court session as his lawyer pleaded for leniency.
Ms Ho said her client was very remorseful and understood that he had made a very serious mistake.
Lee later requested to plead personally, telling the judge that even though he changed his mind and decided to engage a counsel, he never changed his decision to plead guilty.
He said he was fully ashamed of his actions, which have caused pain and harm to his family, especially his wife.
Lee said his wife had "magnanimously taken a tough decision" to forgive him and even proposed to reaffirm their wedding vows.
He also said he has disappointed many who have entrusted him to be their role model.
He also acknowledged that it was his personal lack of control of his moral standards and his weak resistance to distractions that led to his mistake.
When the jail sentence was handed down at about noon, Lee was seen wiping tears from his eyes.
Lee’s lawyer, who had pleaded to the court to impose a fine, later told reporters that her client has taken full responsibility for his actions.
Ms Ho said: "Our client accepts his punishment. And as you have seen from the start, he has been ready to face the consequences of his mistake. He looks forward to moving on and putting all this behind him. He also wishes for forgiveness."
Lee could have been jailed for up to seven years and fined.
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