SINGAPORE, Dec 6 — Hired to teach drums privately to an 11-year-old female student, Justin Lu Zhao En began sexually abusing her on multiple occasions by touching her inappropriately and engaging in sex acts over video calls, among others.

At one point, Lu and the victim developed a secret “code” based on emojis that was used to avoid being found out when texting each other about sex.

Yesterday (December 5), the 32-year-old Singaporean was sentenced to three years and six months' jail with six strokes of the cane after he pleaded guilty to five counts of committing sexual offences against the victim.

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Two of the charges were for using criminal force to outrage the modesty of a person, another two charges were for procuring an indecent act committed by a child under the Children and Young Persons Act, and the final charge was for exhibiting an obscene object.

Four other similar charges were taken into consideration during sentencing.

The victim cannot be named under a gag order to protect her identity.

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Learned drums from him since victim was six

The court heard that when the girl was 6 years old, her father had sent her to learn how to play drums at the music school where Lu had worked as an instructor.

Lu was assigned to teach the girl until sometime in 2018 when he left the school.

Sometime later, Lu approached the girl's father and proposed to teach the girl in private since he was working as a freelance private drum instructor.

As the girl preferred Lu as her drum instructor, Lu started to conduct drum classes at her house from 2019 in the living room where there would always be adult supervision.

Touching her inappropriately in her bedroom

On February 23, 2021, after the drum lessons ended, Lu requested to see the girl's homework.

The 11-year-old girl agreed and brought him to her bedroom.

While they sat in front of her computer, Lu reached out and touched the girl's private part which left her feeling shocked.

She shifted away and confronted Lu, asking him what he was doing.

In response, Lu left the girl's bedroom and went downstairs, and left the home.

At the time of this offence, the girl's domestic helper was at home, but she was in the kitchen, said Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Chan Yi Cheng.

The girl did not inform anyone of this incident as she did not want to think about what happened.

About a week later, after the lessons ended, Lu requested for the girl and him to go up to her bedroom for him to touch her again.

The two went up to the bedroom where Lu touched her inappropriately but stopped when she said she felt pain.

Developed secret code for sexual messages

Between February 23 and March 5, 2021, Lu began communicating with the girl through the iMessage application on their iPhones.

These conversations, which often occurred at night, were sexual in nature and Lu also developed a secret code to be used between them when they wanted to talk sexually.

A green emoji would mean that it was clear to talk while an orange emoji meant that there was someone around.

A red emoji would mean: “I do not want to talk about sexual matters right now”.

DPP Chan said that according to the girl, she would consistently use the red emoji because Lu would pester her for nude photographs and videos.

During this period, Lu also made a Facetime call to the girl where the two would perform a sexual act on themselves. This was later discovered in Lu's seized MacBook during investigations.

On March 5, Lu texted the girl to ask for nude videos and photographs which she complied. In the same conversation, Lu also asked for the girl to perform a sex act on herself and to describe her reaction to him through text.

A police report was lodged by the girl's father on March 6, after he discovered that Lu had sent his daughter inappropriate sexual messages.

Judge: 'Acts against children are very serious'

In delivering her decision, District Judge Brenda Chua said that the protection of children is of paramount importance and agreed that there was some degree of pre-meditation, especially with the use of emojis as a secret code which signified that there was something to hide.

She also disagreed with the defence that Lu was in a weak position of authority as he had been teaching the victim since she was 6 years old, effectively acting as her teacher for five years.

She added: “These acts against children are very serious offences and viewed very seriously. Children are in need of care and protection and not such abuse.”

For each charge of procuring an indecent act committed by a child under the Children and Young Persons Act, Lu could have been jailed for up to seven years or fined up to S$10,000 (RM34,874) or both.

For each charge of using criminal force to outrage the modesty of a person, he could have been jailed for up to five years, fined, or caned, or with any combination of these punishments.

For exhibiting an obscene object, he could have been jailed for up to one year or fined, or both. ― TODAY