Child sex abuse case: Accused duo win defamation suit

Child sex abuse case: Accused duo win defamation suit
Canadian teacher Neil Bantleman shakes hands with supporters as he walks to a courtroom before the start of his trial at a South Jakarta court.

Even as a Canadian school administrator and an Indonesian teaching assistant stand trial in Jakarta for child sex assault, their lawyers in Singapore have successfully sued the mother of an alleged victim for defamation.

The Singapore High Court has ordered the 33-year-old mother, a German, to pay damages after she was sued for defamation earlier this year by Neil Bantleman and Ferdinant Michel, together with the Jakarta International School and the principal of its elementary section Elsa Donohue.

The suit is over statements the mother had allegedly made against the plaintiffs, said their lawyer Chew Kei Jin from Tan Rajah & Cheah.

The High Court issued judgment by default against her after she failed to show up to defend herself.

A hearing was held in Singapore last Tuesday in the run-up to the assessment of damages. Damages at the High Court level start at $250,000.

On the same day in Jakarta, the mother and her young son gave testimony at the ongoing criminal trial of Bantleman, 45, and Michel, 41, her husband told The Straits Times.

The trial comes in the wake of the conviction on Monday of the school's contract janitors for sexually abusing a six-year-old boy.

The four men were each jailed for eight years and fined 100 million rupiah (S$11,000) by the Indonesian court.

A woman cleaner was jailed for seven years for being an accomplice and also fined.

The trial of the janitors is separate from the one involving Bantleman, a Canadian, and Michel, an Indonesian.

The high-profile court cases have scandalised Jakarta's expatriate circles and plunged the school into crisis.

Founded in 1951, the school is said to be the country's largest international school with 2,600 students, many of them children of affluent expatriates and Indonesians.

The woman being sued had lived for about two years in Jakarta, where her 41-year-old husband worked in a multinational firm.

Speaking to The Straits Times from Jakarta last Wednesday, her husband said he had not received any papers about the defamation suit.

He added that he would attend to other matters and "take action" after the criminal trial against the two men is concluded.

The Jakarta trial resumes today.


This article was first published on December 30, 2014.
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