Singapore

Football coach gets jail, cane for sexually assaulting young trainees

Man, 28, gets 26 years' jail and 24 strokes of the cane for offences against victims who were between eight and 11

He started as a helper in 2012 coaching an amateur football team that comprised mainly of teens aged 12 to 17.

Two years later, he took over as coach and began recruiting younger boys.

Within months, he sexually assaulted them.

For sexually abusing seven boys between the ages of eight and 11, Bernard Tan Meng Soon was sentenced yesterday to 26 years' jail and 24 strokes of the cane after pleading guilty to five charges of sexual assault by penetration, with 20 other charges taken into consideration.

He has been in custody since his arrest on Oct 1, 2015.

To recruit young boys for the team, Tan created and distributed pamphlets outside primary schools and in neighbourhoods in the north-west part of Singapore. By 2015, most of the team members were primary school boys aged 12 or below.

Tan, 28, who was diagnosed a paedophile in 2016, had committed the offences from 2014 through September 2015.

In seeking a sentence of at least 27 years jail and 24 strokes of cane, the prosecution noted that Tan's "risk of reoffending has been assessed as at least moderate to high".

Prosecutors said he deliberately sought to isolate the boys in public places like toilet cubicles, where he would perform oral sex on the victims and "gratify his own perverse desires".

Tan, who was diagnosed as having low IQ as a child, told the court yesterday: "I know I have done wrong."

His lawyer Wee Hong Shern said Tan himself was sodomised by a bus driver when he was 15.

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But Justice Valerie Thean found "premeditation" in Tan's actions, even though he was diagnosed as having low IQ as a child.

She added that Tan has no mental disability and understood what he did and the nature and consequences of his acts.

But she also noted that his guilty plea saved "the extremely young victims the trauma of a trial".

Tan's modus operandi was to pick up some of the boys from their homes and send them back after training, to get their parents' permission to join the team.

Investigators found 13 videos of Tan performing oral sex on a boy in his Facebook Messenger account.

One of his victims, a 10-year-old at the time, was lured to a nursing room at Bukit Panjang Plaza where Tan first performed an oral sex act on him on Aug 17, 2015.

Not understanding why Tan was doing it, he decided to count silently until 250 before Tan stopped, the prosecutors said.

After the boy had been sexually assaulted on eight more occasions in two months, he told his parents on Sept 24, 2015, that he did not want to go for further football training.

Upon further questioning, he revealed what Tan had been doing.

The next day, the boy's parents lodged a police report against Tan at Bukit Panjang neighbourhood police centre, and Tan was arrested at his home.

COURT & CRIME