A PART-TIME tutor, who has been labelled "the Bishan Gay", was sentenced to 12 months' jail yesterday for molesting a 12-year-old boy in a toilet cubicle at Junction 8 mall.
But 52-year-old Cheng Hoe Huat insists he is innocent, and is appealing against the verdict. He denies touching the private parts of the Primary 6 madrasah pupil in the first-floor toilet on Nov 13, 2013.
As part of his defence, Cheng, who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, submitted that he had been conducting a "secretive and high-level" survey "for a secret international organisation".
But District Judge Lee Poh Choo said: "I found this explanation impossible to swallow."
The victim, who was among 13 prosecution witnesses, had testified that he went to the Bishan mall with five friends after school that afternoon. They saw Cheng talking to a friend of the victim at a Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf outlet. The victim stayed behind to talk to his friend and told the others to go ahead to McDonald's.
When the victim was alone, Cheng asked him to accompany him to the toilet. The boy agreed, thinking that Cheng, who walked with a stick, needed assistance.
In the toilet, Cheng asked the victim to enter the cubicle with him because he wanted help. When he did so, Cheng asked him to take off his pants. The frightened victim asked why. Cheng said he was conducting a survey.
After he was molested, the boy hurriedly pulled up his pants and ran out to tell his friends. He also called his form teacher.
Four of the victim's friends testified in court, saying the victim looked "timid" and "panicked". Cheng claimed he did not recognise the group of boys and did not know what happened in the cubicle that day.
Judge Lee, however, found the victim to be credible and "unusually convincing". She also pointed out that the boy's four friends, who are also around his age, had identified Cheng as the person who they met at Junction 8 and who molested the victim.
"I also find that the four little boys were honest and frank, and did not embellish their evidence," she said. "These are young and resourceful boys... they secretly videoed the accused and this video clip was important evidence establishing the accused's presence at the location on that day."
The video captured a close-up shot of Cheng and the victim, and showed the former wearing a white polo shirt. The mall's CCTV footage showed an image of a man in a white polo shirt and carrying a stick heading to a toilet accompanied by a boy.
The judge agreed with Deputy Public Prosecutor Amanda Chong Wei-Zhen there was no reason for the witnesses to lie, and that there were aggravating factors.
She said the fact that the victim believed Cheng and followed him into the cubicle showed the boy's innocence and how he easily believed an older person.
Cheng, she added, did not show remorse. When Cheng, who did not have a lawyer, was asked to give his mitigation, he said he had none and claimed he did not commit the offence.
Cheng, who is out on $30,000 bail, escaped caning as he is above 50. He could have been jailed for up to five years and/or fined for using criminal force on a person below 14 years old to outrage his modesty.
This article was first published on May 9, 2015.
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