Judge: He exploited a young victim

Judge: He exploited a young victim
Crane operator Lee Seow Peng (right) is facing trial for one count each of rape, sexual grooming and attempting to procure the commission of an indecent act by an underage girl. He allegedly committed these offences when the girl was 12 between 29 May and 3 June 2012.
PHOTO: The New Paper

He called himself Lucifer and met the 12-year-old girl via a mobile phone messaging app.

Three days later, he picked her up near her school in his multi-purpose vehicle and drove to the Chinese Garden in Jurong.

He had sex with her after asking her to move to the back seat.

It is an offence to have sex with a girl under the age of 16, even if she consents. Sexual intercourse with a girl under 14 is statutory rape. Yesterday, former crane operator Lee Seow Peng, 39, was sentenced to 12 years' jail and nine strokes of the cane, a stiffer sentence than the 11 years with six strokes the prosecution had called for.

The police investigation officer involved is being investigated internally for negligence, said a police spokesman.

Lee had claimed trial to the rape charge, as well as one count each of sexually grooming the minor and attempting to get her to perform an indecent act.

On May 26, 2012, the girl, who was in Secondary 1, met Lee through a mobile phone messaging app.

He used Lucifer as his online name.

After the rape at the Chinese Garden on the evening of May 29, Lee tried to arrange another meeting on June 3 so he could have sex with her again.

During the nine-day trial, which started in December last year, the victim's father testified that his sister told him on June 3, 2012, that his daughter had posted pictures of her private parts on Facebook.

By the time he went online, the pictures had been removed.

So he called the girl's mother, whom he had been separated from since 2005, and told her to check the girl's computer for the pictures.

SEXUALLY-CHARGED

The mother discovered messages, which were sexually-charged, between Lee and the girl. The girl then told her mother what happened.

The court heard that Lee had messaged the girl about going to a "no people place" (sic) and a "lover will go place" (sic) where they could talk in his car.

He also said he wanted to give her a "good feel" (sic).

The father told the court: "Every time I look at her, something inside hurts me. I shouldn't blame her, but I feel betrayed and guilty. As a father, I couldn't protect her. I am very sad."

In January, Judicial Commissioner Hoo Sheau Peng convicted Lee on all three charges. But she said it had not been proven beyond reasonable doubt that Lee had had sex with the girl without her consent.

The girl had texted Lee "Goodnight, honey" hours after they had had sex. She had also continued communicating with Lee in a positive frame of mind.

Yesterday, Lee's lawyer, Mr Kertar Singh, said in mitigation that his client had lost his job as a result of the court case. The entire episode has been a great distress to Lee and his wife, who has a 19-year-old daughter from a previous relationship.

During sentencing, the judge said there was no real mitigating factor.

She noted an age gap of 24 years and how Lee had used mobile and Internet technology to exploit a young victim for sexual gratification.

Therefore, a stiffer sentence was warranted to reflect his culpability and to deter such offences.

Mr Singh said his client would be appealing against the conviction and sentence.

Lee is out on bail of $100,000.

His wife, who was in court, declined to comment when approached.

For rape, Lee could have been jailed for up to 20 years and caned.

For sexually grooming a girl under 16, the maximum penalty is three years' jail with a fine.

For asking his victim to perform an indecent act, he could have been jailed for up to five years and fined.

Cop who kept swabs in locker under probe

The police officer who handled the investigation of Lee Seow Peng's rape of a 12-year old girl is facing an internal investigation for negligence.

Station Inspector Colin Ng had first instructed a colleague to swab the wrong part of Lee's vehicle.

He then kept the swabs in his personal locker and did not send them for analysis.

In January, Judicial Commissioner Hoo Sheau Peng said Station Insp Ng had handled the rape investigation unsatisfactorily, though she found the lack of DNA evidence had not prejudiced the case.

Yesterday, a police spokesman told The New Paper that the police had initiated internal investigations against Station Insp Ng.

"Police officers are expected to adhere strictly to established investigation processes. Disciplinary action will be taken against those who are found to be negligent," the spokesman said.

During the trial in December last year, Station Insp Ng told the court he had asked his colleagues to swab the front passenger seat of Lee's multipurpose vehicle, instead of the backseat where Lee had raped the girl.

He called it an "oversight".

He also testified that he did not know where the swabs were, adding that they could have been misplaced or could be in his office.

'NO RELEVANCE'

When the judge asked him why he had not sent the swabs for analysis in 2012, he said he saw "no relevance" in doing so as they had been taken from the wrong seat.

Station Insp Ng said he would have had them analysed if they had been taken from the rear seat.

He was told to return to his office to look for the swabs and he produced them in court that afternoon.

He told the court he found them in his personal cupboard and he was the only one with the key to it.

Judicial Commissioner Hoo said in January that the court was satisfied there was no prejudice to Lee as the lack of DNA evidence was a neutral factor to his defence.

A criminal lawyer, Mr Chen Chee Yen, a partner at Tan Rajah & Cheah with 16 years of experience, told TNP the outcome could have been different if there was no other objective evidence, such as the text messages and the victim's testimony.

"If the DNA evidence was the only objective evidence for the case, the failing of the investigation officer could have very serious consequences. It could have changed the outcome of the case," he said.

"This is something the police will have to deal with," he said.


This article was first published on April 14, 2016.
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