Music teacher jailed for sex with teenager

SINGAPORE - A music teacher who convinced an autistic teenager to have sex with him several times in public places was sentenced to 18 months in jail on Thursday.

James Rohan Fernando, 25, who faced six counts of sexual penetration of a minor, pleaded guilty to three of the charges, which took place between December 2011 and March last year, when the girl was 14.

His lawyer Stephen Wong said his client was never told of the victim's autism, that the sex was consensual, and that he never manipulated or exploited her.

But District Judge Eugene Teo said: "You sought out this person, that much is clear. And at the very beginning, right from the start, you knew she was 13. What future is there in further contacting this person? That fact itself speaks for itself."

Diagnosed as having autism spectrum disorder when she was a child, the girl found it difficult to make friends and was often bullied in school.

But when she met Fernando on Facebook in 2010, she found someone to talk to.

They became friends, said Deputy Public Prosecutor Stella Tan Wei Ling, chatting online and sending each other text messages. Fernando told the girl he liked her.

The victim thought she loved him.

Before they met in person in December 2011, Fernando shared explicit sexual information with her. Then he took her to the top floor of Block 87 Telok Blangah Heights, where he sexually abused her for the first time.

When the victim said they should not engage in any more sexual acts when they next met, he told her he did not want to see her any more. Believing they were in a boyfriend-girlfriend relationship, she gave in.

About a month later, he took her to the top floor of a multi-storey carpark at Telok Blangah Heights and became intimate with her on the staircase landing.

During their final meeting in March last year at the same carpark, Fernando, who works in a music school in Orchard, had sex with her.

It was only after the victim's mother found sexual text messages from Fernando in her daughter's mobile phone that she went to the police.

According to the lawyer, Fernando, who could have been jailed for up to 10 years and/or fined on each charge, has written an apology to the girl, expressing regret for his actions.

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