SINGAPORE — A reading specialist who molested a three-year-old female student attending his class was jailed for 18 months and given three strokes of the cane on Wednesday (3 March).
The molest committed by Richard Christopher Monks occured during a session when the girl stood up to watch a video clip on Monks’ phone. Monks then slid his hand underneath the victim’s dress to caress her buttocks.
The prosecution sought a sentence of at least two years and four strokes of the cane while Monks' lawyer, Patrick Fernandez, asked for a sentence of a year's jail.
At an earlier hearing, Fernandez told the court that his client had apologised to the victim and her family for the distress and harm he caused. Monks had chosen not to claim trial because he was mindful not to subject the victim to the ordeal of reliving the incident, the lawyer said.
One of Monks' supervisors had found him to be "polite, punctual, conscientious and hardworking" during his term of employment from December 2016 to November 2018, Fernandez said.
Deputy Public Prosecutors Nicholas Khoo and Tan Hsiao Tien said that the Briton had used a second handphone to photograph or film the victim as he molested her over 15 minutes.
While Fernandez said his client admits to pointing his handphone at the victim’s buttock area, he denies taking any photos or videos. Monks has since lost the handphone, and there was no evidence that the phone or photos exist, said Fernandez.
On this point, District Judge Chee Min Ping said that it was appropriate to infer from the statement of facts that he was making an effort to take photos or videos of the offence.
"The absence of any evidence placed before court that photos or videos were taken did not prevent court from finding…. that he took steps to subject the victim to further degradation," she added.
The Briton earlier pleaded guilty to one count of molesting a child under 14 years old. The victim and the language centre she attended cannot be named to protect her identity
Monks was employed as a reading specialist at the language training and literacy centre, which taught students from two-and-a-half to 12 years old. The victim, then three years and 11 months old, attended his lesson at the centre every Saturday evening. She was the youngest in the class of four to five-year-olds.
On 20 October 2018, while attending her usual lesson with five other students, Monks gathered the entire class to sit at one side of the table to watch a video.
He then placed himself behind the students. Monks was aware of a CCTV camera installed in a corner of the classroom’s ceiling. In his position, he was diagonally opposite the CCTV camera and the students’ upper bodies blocked the view of his hands.
Monks then played a video from his phone and placed it on the table. CCTV camera footage showed that the victim was standing and leaning forward to watch the video and Monks was sitting behind her, slightly to her right.
For around 15 minutes, Monks slid his left hand under the girl’s dress and touched her buttocks, making the victim uncomfortable.
The girl expressed her discomfort by fidgeting and turning back to look at the accused several times, said the prosecution. However, Monks continued to molest her.
The CCTV footage also captured Monks repeatedly pointing another handphone camera at the girl’s buttocks, but investigations could not determine how many photos or videos he took as Monks claimed that he had lost his phone in Thailand. After the offence, Monks left Singapore for Thailand on 27 October 2018 and returned four days later.
On 27 October 2018, the victim’s parents were preparing to bring their daughter to her usual lesson when the girl appeared reluctant to go. After the offence came to light, the victim’s mother lodge a police report on the same day and stopped her lessons.
Monks was arrested on 1 November 2018 but denied committing the offence in three statements to the police.
For molesting a person under 14, he could have been jailed up to five years, or fined, or caned or any combination of the punishments.
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