SINGAPORE: Despite being jailed previously for a similar offence, a man with HIV had unprotected sex with a 14-year-old girl without informing her of his medical condition. He got her to volunteer at the animal shelter where he worked to get closer to her.
The 41-year-old man, who cannot be named due to gag orders imposed by the court, was given 13 years and two months' jail on Monday (Dec 13).
He pleaded guilty to 11 charges, mostly of sexual penetration with a minor and failing to inform his sexual partner of the risk of contracting HIV from him before engaging in sex.
Another 25 charges were considered in sentencing.
The court heard that the man was released from jail in January 2019 under a conditional remission scheme for previous crimes of shop theft.
He began volunteering at an animal shelter and was later employed by the facility.
He was promoted to head trainer, supervising cleaners and training volunteers on how to care for the dogs on top of other duties.
In July 2019, the 14-year-old victim went to the shelter with her aunt. The offender recognised her on a subsequent visit and asked if she was interested to volunteer at the shelter and join a chat group.
HE PERSUADED SHELTER CO-OWNER TO ACCEPT VICTIM AS VOLUNTEER
The co-owner of the shelter initially said volunteers should be aged 16 or older, but the offender persuaded him.
He said the victim was very interested in volunteering and came from a "broken home". It would be a waste not to let her learn at the shelter and she might go astray, he claimed.
The co-owner relented. From July to December 2019, the victim volunteered almost every Saturday at the shelter, becoming the offender's apprentice.
In August 2019, the man began communicating privately with the victim on WhatsApp and Instagram. He also kissed her on the lips at the shelter.
The victim agreed to be his girlfriend. He lied that he was single and lived with his mother. In fact, he had a girlfriend of four years and rented a residence.
He invited the victim to his home in early September 2019, where they hugged and kissed. He then attempted sexual intercourse, but stopped when the victim said she felt pain.
However, on the next occasion, he had unprotected sex with her, the prosecutor said.
The offender continued to invite the victim to his place for sex over several months. He knew he had been diagnosed with HIV in July 2011 but did not tell the victim about it.
He received treatment for HIV and the viral load was not detectable in his last assessment in July 2019.
The man did not tell the victim he had HIV as he was "afraid of losing her" and of how she would react, the prosecutor said.
He told the victim that age did not matter if they were in love, and said that a man who had sex with her once and did not want to have sex again was an "untrustworthy man". In contrast, a man who wanted to have sex with her many times "loved her very much", he claimed.
In November 2019, the victim's brother used her phone and saw her conversations with the offender on Instagram. He told their father, who made a police report. The victim tested negative for HIV.
The case was handled by one prosecutor each from the Attorney-General's Chambers and the Ministry of Health. Deputy Public Prosecutor Andre Ong and MOH prosecutor Jason Lee asked for 13 years and two to three months' jail.
OFFENDER WAS "SELFISH", DECEPTIVE: PROSECUTORS
Mr Lee said the offender had previously been jailed for 18 months for a similar offence under the Infectious Diseases Act, but still did not grasp the risk of "life-altering change" that he was subjecting his victims to.
Even though the man was aware that he had to tell his sex partners about his HIV status, he "selfishly wanted" the victim to agree to undergo sexual activities with him and did not disclose any such information to her.
This was also not a one-off offence but a series of offences conducted over a period of four months, said Mr Lee, adding that the man also did not take any steps to minimise HIV infection.
He also abused his position of trust, using it to get close to the victim after securing her continued presence at the shelter, said Mr Lee.
However, he acknowledged that the risk of HIV transmission was low, as the viral load was not detected at his last assessment in July 2019.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Andre Ong said the man showed a degree of premeditation, inviting the victim to his home on 17 occasions over three months and taking precautions to evade his landlord.
He had also reoffended four months after the expiry of his conditional remission order.
In mitigation, the man, who was unrepresented, said he was "very shameful and remorseful for all the things that happened" and said this will be "the very last time" he commits any offence.
"My loved one and my mum accepted me back. I know it's going to be a long sentence," he said.
The judge agreed "wholeheartedly" to the prosecution's submissions, saying that this case was "one of the more egregious" ones he has encountered in terms of sexual penetration of a minor.
For each count of sexual penetration of a minor, the man could have been jailed up to 10 years, fined, or both.
For failing to inform a prospective sex partner of his HIV status, he could have been jailed up to 10 years, fined up to S$50,000, or both.