Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Chief Justice Explains Himself

CJ explains why he cut sentence in oral sex case

i know the link will disappear in a couple of days, so here's the text:

There was 'striking disparity' between ex-cop's two-year term and those given to other men for sex with underage girls

By Selina Lum

THE sentence for 'unnatural' oral sex with a young person should not be too different from that of someone who has 'ordinary' sex with a girl below the age of 16, the Chief Justice has ruled.

He did so in his written reasons for halving the two-year jail term in the much-publicised case of Annis Abdullah, 27, a former police sergeant who had oral sex with a 15-year-old girl.

In a 31-page judgment released yesterday, CJ Yong Pung How said Annis' two-year punishment was manifestly excessive.

He also noted a 'striking disparity' between Annis' sentence and those generally given to men who have had sex with underage girls.

But he acknowledged that the two offences are different. Sex with a girl under the age of 16 years is an offence under the Women's Charter; oral sex falls within Section 377 of the Penal Code.

However, both are deemed criminal offences, he said, to protect young victims from being exploited through sexual activities, whether natural or otherwise.

'In this light... there should not be an overly large disparity between sentences under the two provisions.'

Under the Women's Charter, a man who has sex with a girl under the age of 16 faces up to five years' jail and a maximum $10,000 fine.

In 2001, the CJ set the benchmark for such offences at one year in prison when he sentenced a 45-year-old married man who had sex with a girl 30 years his junior.

Oral sex offenders can be sentenced to life imprisonment.

However, the age difference between the victim and accused, as well as the victim's age, are significant when it comes to sentencing such offenders, said the CJ.

It was the clear policy of Parliament, he said, to criminalise sexual activity involving girls under 16 years old. This principle should be extended to oral sex.

Consent is irrelevant when it comes to young victims, as young girls may not be mature enough to make decisions about their own sexuality. So the law must step in.

At Annis' appeal three weeks ago, the prosecution had argued there was 'little difference in the moral culpability' of a person who has sex, rather than unnatural sex, with a young girl.

In his written reasons, CJ Yong described Annis' original two-year jail term as 'problematic', as in 2000, a man who broke into a woman's home and forced her at knifepoint to perform oral sex on him was jailed a year for the offence.

The district judge who sentenced Annis had erred in concluding that the 'starting point' for oral sex with a young victim was 'in the region of five years' jail.

The judge had relied on cases in which those who were accused exploited their young victims. But Annis was not in the same league.

'Each case will turn on its own unique facts, and the court must always be mindful of this.'

He said the judge had also erred in imposing a deterrent sentence because Annis was a police officer.

The offence was unrelated to his status, said the CJ, and there was no evidence Annis had used his position to coerce the girl.

A deterrent sentence may not be warranted if an officer offends outside the scope of his duties and does not abuse his position to commit the offence, he added.

He also dismissed Annis' argument that the girl had been intimate with him of her own volition.

It was Annis who had asked the girl for oral sex in his car after she declined to have sex with him, he pointed out.

Said CJ Yong: 'Even if the victim was sexually experienced or promiscuous... it is established law that this is wholly irrelevant in sentencing.' -- Additional reporting by Maria Almenoar

-rolls eyes-

why don't we just lump this all under 'protecting the underage' -since she clearly is- and remove the word 'unnatural' from our penal code? i still find that word completely bizarre. CJ, go do your job right and review the outdated, extremely-full-of-british-madness criminal code, all right?

in other news, i read shereen's post about flooding and rain, and i was unconvinced that it was that terrible (remember, i haven't been home for the monsoons in years, plus it really hasn't been all that bad in recent years, right?). but i wandered onto the ST Online minutes ago (professor yang is talking about the death penalty and death by lethal injection instead of being shot in the back of the head by the army) and found this article with scarylooking pictures of cars driving through a foot of water. while i can understand that things were pretty nasty for businesses and people driving around in cars, the three-year-old in me was jumping up and down wanting to know if she could go walk through a foot of rainwater in the streets in her sandals and shorts, because paddling through puddles is So Much Fun. oh man, i wanna play in the rain. -grin-


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