SINGAPORE, May 24 — While working as a history teacher in a top secondary school here, a 36-year-old man started a “relationship” with a 15-year-old student and committed indecent acts with her on campus.

After a few months, he ended things and she graduated.

She then returned to the school three years later to work as a relief teacher, but the sexual acts only came to light another four years later, prompting the principal to lodge a police report.

The victim ended up taking her own life in May last year at the age of 25, several months before the teacher pleaded guilty in the State Courts to two criminal charges of committing an indecent act with a young person under the Children and Young Persons Act.

She had been diagnosed with anorexia and major depressive disorder several years earlier.

Today (May 24), the Singaporean teacher, now aged 46, was sentenced to 15 months’ jail. Two other similar charges were taken into consideration for sentencing.

He will begin serving his sentence next week and remains out on a S$20,000 bail. He, as well as the school he taught at, cannot be named due to a court order to protect the victim’s identity.

He left the Ministry of Education in 2018 around when his offences were reported.

The court previously heard that he has a history of bipolar disorder, but a psychiatrist found that a mandatory treatment order was not suitable for him. This is a community sentencing option offered to offenders suffering from mental conditions that contributed to the offence.

‘I can do anything now’

The accused met the victim in 2009, the same year he was posted to the school as a history teacher. In August 2010, they spent more time together as she was the student head of the co-curricular activity that he was in charge of. He also taught an advanced history class which she attended. During this time, they began talking about personal matters with each other over coffee and through text messages.

In December that year, the man went to London for a holiday but they stayed in contact, sharing that they missed each other. The girl understood from their conversations that he wanted her to treat him like a partner, Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Asoka Markandu told the court.

When they returned for the new academic year in January 2011, they began to meet more frequently in school, depending on each other for their emotional issues.

By end-February 2011, they were in a “relationship” and held hands when alone in school.

As part of their co-curricular duties, they and other committee members were given access cards to a room. The victim and the accused would work and study there when student activities were over. Between March and May 2011, the pair were alone in the room when he grabbed her wrists, lifted them above her head and pressed her against the wall. He told her: “I can do anything now” before letting go of her wrists after several seconds.

The victim recalled feeling confused and embarrassed by his actions but did not react or say anything, DPP Markandu told the court.

Around the same time, they were alone in the room again when he groped her private parts under her underwear. Taken by surprise and not knowing how to react, she did not say anything and stepped away when he removed his hand.

The pair continued to communicate and met during the June 2011 mid-year holidays.

When the new term started, he told her that their relationship was over and did not make further advances towards her. They stayed in touch when she left the school.

In January 2014, she returned to the school as a relief teacher to teach history for six months — an arrangement he was involved in.

During this period, she began showing signs of an eating disorder. The man accompanied her to Singapore General Hospital where she was referred for treatment.

She stopped contacting him in November 2016 on her psychiatrist's advice.

About two years, she told a friend about what had happened between her and the accused. The matter escalated to the principal who filed a police report on the victim’s behalf.

DPP Ng Jean Ting, who sought at least 12 months’ jail, revealed in court further details of what the victim went through.

DPP Ng said that after the man broke up with the victim, she developed suicidal ideations, feeling like he had “broken her” and she should “disappear and not exist”. Her weight fluctuated significantly due to her eating disorder and she could not concentrate in school.

In 2014, she was formally diagnosed with anorexia and major depressive disorder. She attempted suicide thrice that year and was warded in hospital for 10 days before being referred to a psychiatrist.

In 2016, she told her psychiatrist that she was distressed about her relationship with the man. She followed her psychiatrist's advice to stop communicating with him.

However, this triggered her suicidal ideations once more. She was warded again for four weeks in October 2017 for electroconvulsive therapy.

She then tragically took her own life in May last year, said DPP Ng. As for the man's bipolar disorder, another psychiatrist found that the mental illness did not have a contributory link to his offences, and he clearly knew what he was doing given that he made his advances only when they were alone in the room.

For each charge of committing an indecent act, he could have been jailed for up to five years or fined up to S$10,000, or punished with both.

Where to get help

― National Care Hotline: 1800-202-6868 ― Fei Yue's Online Counselling Service: website (Mon to Fri, 10am to 12pm, 2pm to 5pm) ― Institute of Mental Health's Mental Health Helpline: 6389-2222 (24 hours) ― Samaritans of Singapore: 1800-221-4444 (24 hours) / 1-767 (24 hours) ― Singapore Association for Mental Health: 1800-283-7019 (Mon to Fri, 9am to 6pm) ― Silver Ribbon Singapore: 6386-1928 / 6509-0271 (Mon to Fri, 9am to 6pm) ― Tinkle Friend: 1800-274-4788 (Mon to Fri, 2.30pm to 5pm) ― Touchline (Counselling): 1800-377-2252 (Mon to Fri, 9am to 6pm) ― TODAY