A 23-year-old man yesterday became the first in an online vice ring case to be given probation as punishment, rather than jail.
Though the judge did not specify this, Kelvin Peck Yong Li may have escaped incarceration for having sex with an underage prostitute in part because of his age.
In addition to his 18-month probation term, he will also have to perform 120 hours of community service. His parents will have to pay a $5,000 bond to ensure his good behaviour.
Peck, who worked at his father's electrical appliances shop as a sales promoter, is the 36th man to be dealt with out of 51 taken to court in 2012 for paying to have sex with the minor.
Now 21, she was an escort listed on a website operated by her pimp.
Peck fought one charge of paying the girl - then 17 - $450 for sex in 2010 at Hotel 81 Bencoolen but was convicted after a four-day trial.
Finding him guilty of the offence in March, District Judge Ronald Gwee said that Peck had not done enough to verify her age, beyond asking for her name and how old she was when he met her.
The girl's reply that she had done her O-level examinations two years earlier was "not an answer", the judge said.
It was clear in the circumstances that Peck had reservations about the prostitute's advertised monicker, the judge said. She had also been listed as 18 years old.
He said Peck should have taken the further step of asking to see her identity card to find out her true age.
Peck is believed to be the sixth person to be sentenced after claiming trial. Five others before him have received jail terms of between four and five months.
The maximum penalty for the offence is a seven-year jail term and a fine.
This article was published on April 29 in The Straits Times.
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