SINGAPORE: A former lecturer with the National University of Singapore (NUS) was on Monday (Jul 29) sentenced to three years and seven months’ jail for molesting nine boys during a school camp in 1999.

Chan Cheng, now 59, fled to Malaysia in November 1999 using his brother’s passport while out on bail. He was extradited to Singapore in December 2016, after 17 years on the loose.

He was found guilty of five charges of molesting five 13-year-old boys over a three-day-two-night life-skills camp in Old Airport Road in June 1999.

Another seven charges involving four other boys were taken into consideration for sentencing on Monday.

Defence lawyer Ramesh Tiwary on Monday told the court that his client’s record “up to 1999 was really sterling”.

“We urge your honour to consider what he did from 1999 to 2016, when he was in Malaysia,” said the defence. “He continued to contribute and the testimonials are there before your honour.”

The defence counsel said: “The trial and the attendant publicity have had a devastating effect on him, especially after the conviction. He was actually chased and harassed.”

Mr Tiwary added that the offences occurred in 1999 and the sentencing guidelines should be from 1999.

Deputy Public Prosecutor James Chew said that the fact that Chan had absconded was an aggravating factor, and that any acts of service done during the period of abscondment were “neutral” factors.

YOU EXPLOITED THEIR VULNERABILITY: JUDGE TO CHAN

District Judge Shaiffudin Saruwan said the defence lawyer’s recommended sentences were “not in line with case precedents even then”.

He said the victims were 13 at the time of the offences and were vulnerable.

“You had taken advantage of this and exploited this vulnerability,” said the judge. “As a camp commandant there was an abuse of the trust and authority vested in you by the victims’ school and parents.”

He said there was premeditation in Chan’s case, and he did not plead guilty, so no sentencing discount could be given.

“In your favour, I note your clean record and your sterling contributions especially in relation to young people and teens,” added the judge.

He elaborated that Chan was exempted from caning as he is over 50, but he would have sentenced him to 10 to 11 strokes of the cane if not.

“I am of the view in this case that there are good grounds to impose a sentence in lieu of caning,” said the judge, saying that Chan was exempted from caning because he had absconded.

Of the three years and seven months’ jail he received, five months was in lieu of caning.

Chan’s lawyer said he intends to appeal against his conviction and the sentence, and was applying for bail pending appeal.

The prosecution said it would not object to this on the condition that bail was increased by S$30,000 to S$90,000 and that Chan would be subject to electronic tagging and report to an investigation officer weekly.