I can't forgive or just forget

The law may have considered her past in sentencing her to probation instead of jail but, to her victim's father, history is no excuse for what the kindergarten teacher did to his daughter.

The teacher had made his daughter, who was five when the abuse occurred in 2011, strip and stand naked in front of her kindergarten classmates.

The teacher, who has since left the kindergarten, also swung the girl against a whiteboard and pushed her into a box of toys.

Yesterday, the woman, who is now 26, was given 21 months' probation.

She escaped jail time because as a child, she had been a victim of sexual abuse by her father.

There is a court order against identifying anyone in the case to protect the child, who is now seven years old and in Primary 1.

The girl's father told The New Paper that he finds it very difficult to forgive the woman as his daughter had "suffered a lot". Also, there had been more than one act of abuse.

He said: "My wife used to speak to (the teacher) every day as she was concerned... But (the teacher) assured her that she was taking care of our child very well.

"Before the abuse, our daughter was bubbly and loved going to school. But she later became very quiet and reserved. She used to cry every day going to school."

Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Chee Ee Ling said that the girl has been feeling fearful and sad after the abuse.

Picking up the pieces

The family is still trying to pick up the pieces.

The father said: "We are trying very hard to help her forget about her ordeal. Now, my daughter is unable to concentrate on her studies. She is frightened of teachers who resemble (the woman). I now spend more time with my daughter and often tell her to not worry when she doesn't perform as well in school."

He added that he was shocked when he learnt yesterday that the teacher was given probation.

But, he said, he still has faith in the country's legal system.

"A similar unfortunate incident had taken place in (another childcare centre) recently and the way the authorities have responded to (the alleged offence) has given us strength and hope."

The child's father said that he had heard from the other parents of the punishment his daughter was subjected to and informed his wife.

His wife complained to the principal at the kindergarten on Aug 17 that year.

The woman was summoned before them and she admitted she had made the girl strip before her classmates.

She then claimed the child was sleeping during Chinese class and had hit her classmate twice in his eye.

The class then became rowdy when the girl maintained her innocence. Her classmates also called the girl a "liar".

Because of this, the teacher told the girl to strip.

Her classmates reacted by laughing at the girl.

The ex-teacher's past as a victim of sexual abuse by her father was taken into account in sentencing her to probation.

Criminal lawyers The New Paper spoke to said such sentences are handed out to those who can be rehabilitated and if the offence does not carry a minimum sentence.

"The probation order is usually given if the judge feels that he or she has bright prospects at work or in school," said criminal lawyer Rajan Supramaniam.

It is also usually only given to offenders under 21 years old who have not been previously convicted of a similar offence.

Those above 21 will only be considered under exceptional circumstances.

"The probation officer will take into account if you have good testimonials from teachers or employers, whether you have done community work, and if you have a good character," said Mr Supramaniam.

The probation officer then decides on recommending probation to the judge, said Mr Supramaniam, who is a lawyer at Hilborne & Co.

Probation orders can last between six months and three years.

During this time, a curfew is imposed and those on probation are required to stay in contact with their respective probation officers.

Surprise visits

The officers will also pay surprise visits to the offender's house.

The offender, though, is allowed to go to work or school.

"This method is a very successful one," said criminal lawyer Luke Lee, who has been in practice for 23 years.

"For me, I've not dealt with a client who has gone back to committing crimes."

Said Mr Supramaniam: "It's a good wake-up call.

Those who have been put on probation usually cherish the opportunity to turn over a new leaf."

The former kindergarten teacher pleaded guilty on Feb 18 to one count of child abuse and one count of using criminal force on the girl.

There were two other charges of using criminal force - one for pushing the child forward, causing her to fall into a basket of toys and another for pushing the girl and causing her to hit her forehead on a wooden shelf. These charges were taken into consideration during sentencing.

For ill-treating the girl, she could have been jailed up to four years and fined a maximum of $4,000.

And for using criminal force on her, the woman could have been jailed up to three months and fined a maximum of $1,500.

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