Thursday, April 19, 2012

Charged for an offence that they were probably not aware of

I am concerned about the decision taken by the public prosecutor to charge the 44 men for having commercial sex with the the under-aged girl.

I am not defending the actions of these men. Rather, I am questioning the decision to charge them, based on the evidence that was available. According to what I read in the papers, these men were enticed by an online website that showed the girl to be 18 years old. If she was below 18 years, she must have deliberately lied about her age. Surely, she is the bigger culprit?

Let me give you this analogy. I bought a piece of cake and gave it to my friend. My friend died from food poisoning after eating the cake. I was not aware about the ingredients in the cake. Should I be charged for homicide, being the person who delivered the cake? Was I responsible to check that the cake was fit for consumption, when I had no reason to suspect otherwise?

For a person to be charged for a crime, there must be evidence that he knew of the crime or had to duty to find out. Did the police had grounds to know that the 44 men knew that the prostitute was below the legal age? If they had the duty to find out, how could it be done? Quite likely, the prostitute would not want to show her real name by producing the identity card.

Did the police ask each of the 44 men for their side of the story? Was there any reason to reject their excuse that they did not know her real age? Should these people be let off with a warning? Could they pay a penalty without being charged in court and without admission of guilt?

In Singapore, a person is condemned by public opinion when they are charged in court, regardless of whether they are eventually convicted. We are destroying the reputation and careers of 44 people by taking this drastic action. Is this the type of outcome that is desirable for the future of Singapore?

I wish to repeat that I am not condoning the action of these 44 men and that action should be taken to protect our under-aged girls. But this is probably a bad case to act on. And it may be unjust to the people who are involved.

I hope that the police and public prosecutor will review this matter and find a better solution - before more people and their families are harmed unnecessarily and excessively.

Tan Kin Lian

16 comments:

Sureesh said...

You have a point, by saying that it is against the law to have sex with a prostitute who is below 18, in fact they are also saying that it is ok to have sex with a prostitute 18 years old and above.

Why can't they completely make paid sex illegal. When they put an age limit to it. People can trapped into situations like this

yujuan said...

The law is that dacronian here in Singapore, the law is such, that the onus is on the person who engages in an activity to protect himself, on similar lines of a person buying a financial product, you can't argue you dunno what you're buying, you jolly well go and find out yourself.
Simply, caveat emptor, buying sex from the trader, the pimp, sama sama.
But why so many from the teaching profession showing various kinds of sexual obsession, perhaps their occupation is too mundane, too stressful or having too much time on their hands during school vacations, propelling them to engage in naughty, tempting pursuits for some excitement outside the primp and proper school environment.

Lye Khuen Way said...

It seem that the whole Government is now trying to be super "efficient ", after GE2011!
In other words, they are going overboard on all fronts, trying to act as a upright administration.
I do agree with Mr Tan, that the fall out from this expose does not hide the fact that prostitution is Legal in Singapore.
Money laundering via the two IRs, is a given.
No amount of denial, is going to convince me.
The social cost to Singapore, is just starting to add up.

Tan Kin Lian said...

Someone told me this. Singaporeans, men and women in careers, work long hours and work too hard. They do not have time for romance.

So, the men had to find their romance through "commercial sex". At least the girls know how to make them feel great - unlike the way that their wife treat them.

And, my friend told me, many women are also having extra marital affairs. This became evident from the many divorce cases that he handled, through his counselling activities.

So, Singaporeans - do not be too hasty in judging the 44 people in the news. There are more people around, who have not been caught, including women.

Keith Francis said...

While I consider the pimp to be the most guilty of all, I don't agree that the girl shld be treated as an innocent victim... while the men's lives/families/careers/​reputations are being turned upside down.
Let's get real!! The girl slept with over 80 men, which hardly qualifies her as "innocent"... all the while misleading the men into believing that she was of legal age (pimp's idea no doubt), which doesn't exactly scream "victim".
So after the dust settles, n the men pick up the pieces of what's left of their shredded dignity, the girl still gets to continue with her whoring existence, raking in a small fortune in the process.
I wonder what wld happen if it were ever discovered that a "highly respected individual of society" also turned out to be a happy customer... or wld that individual's involement be quashed, never to be heard of again.

tanakow said...

The government should ask itself what it is trying to do in these cases. Given that these people did not intentionally go out for below 18 years old, I think the government should declare an amnesty in this case.

Chris Tan said...

Hi Mr. Tan - pertaining to your cake analogy, the only comment I have is that in this case, because prostitution is illegal in Singapore, what the man gave his friend was not a piece of cake, but something illegal, like drugs. Furthermore, it was not given, but sold.

If I was out looking for illegal narcotics in the first place, I think quite a bit more of the onus of ascertaining whether the drugs were of the kind that would send me to the gallows. Being the purchaser, there is quite a lot more of "let the buyer beware", especially when what was being sold is knowingly illegal in the first place.

My $0.02 worth.

Parka said...

"For a person to be charged for a crime, there must be evidence that he knew of the crime or had to duty to find out."

I don't think the law works that way.

Say a tourist is caught littering in Singapore. The tourist is not aware that littering is an offense in Singapore. Does that make it not a crime?

shuchan said...

Dear Tan Kin Lian
under the law, obtaining the sexual services of a person under the age of 18 years of age is a crime. consent is irrelevant. one needs to take into consideration public policy as it seeks to protect the young from sexual exploitation.

regarding your cake analogy, the person who brought you the cake without knowledge of the poison is an innocent agent so he will not be liable.

its a completely different context w a completely different outcome. the seeking of sexual services with an underaged girl cannot be compared w the unwitting provision of a poisoned cake. it is wholly different !!!

Leicht said...

Mr Tan, when you said that "there are more people around who have not been caught", are you referring to those who are visiting prostitutes, having extra-marital affairs, or paying for sex with underaged girls?

yeokh said...

It must not be overlooked that past similar cases have resulted in the imprisonment of quite a few men. Where was the outcry for those men?

Section 376B under which the men were charged allows for imprisonment, fine or both.

Unfortunately, our judiciary had always taken the low road and (in my opinion) unjustly jailed the offenders when a fine would have been sufficient.

You are absolutely spot on to say that intent is an important issue in crime matters.

Vin Lim said...

is there any law that can be used on the underage girl for prostituting herself when she knows it is illegl? even if her identity is protected, can she be charged for underage prostitution?

yeokh said...

Vin Lim... absolutely not. In fact the law sees the underaged sex worker purely as a victim, not as an offender. The whole intent of section 376B is that few minors will want to be sex workers since they will lack customers.

Unfortunately, the customers of these under-aged sex workers are often unwittingly lured into thinking that the girls are above the legal age.

There is actually a way out -- fine the men instead of sending them to prison. But our judges so far have erred (in my opinion) by handing out stiff custodial sentences to all those who committed such offences.

In a way, it's good that the latest cases have made the headlines. Hopefully, it will set a new precedent of imposing fines instead of prison sentences on all those found guilty of unknowingly engaging the services of under-aged sex workers.

xin said...

Perhaps on the other spectrum, the catch of this whole saga is that - the men already knew the girl was underaged, and that was precisely what made the deal appealing to them. Surely, many or them caught were high ranking professionals and wouldn't it not that hard at all for them to know the law and seek legal prostituition? The catch was that the girl is underaged, that was what drew them into it.

Vincent Sear said...

[quote]is there any law that can be used on the underage girl for prostituting herself when she knows it is illegl? even if her identity is protected, can she be charged for underage prostitution?[/quote]

None that I know of. The premise of the law already has the presumption under 18 is unable to make an adult decision whether selling her body for sexual service is right or wrong in an adult state of mind. That's why it's illegal to have paid sex with under 18 under the law. Contradictory isn't it, but that's the way it is, unless ammended.

Berinda said...

Dear Chris Tan,

FYI Prostitution in Singapore is legal.

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