In what prosecutors described as the “worst case of sexual offences against pubescent males”, a 31-year-old engineer was today (March 20) sentenced to 30 years’ jail and 24 strokes of the cane, the maximum number of strokes allowed under the law.
Yap Weng Wah sexually groomed at least 31 boys, aged 11 to 15, after meeting them on Facebook. He is diagnosed with hebephilia, a term used to describe sexual interest in pubescent individuals.
Between November 2009 and June 2012, Yap, in all but one case, either sodomised or had oral sex with the boys at his rented flat, in hotels or at swimming complexes.
His actions came to light when one of the victims’ sister checked her brother’s mobile phone.
Yap was arrested in September 2012, and more than 2,000 videos of his sexual acts, including those with the 31 victims, were found on his laptop and phone.
On Jan 16 this year, he pleaded guilty and was convicted of 12 charges of sexual penetration of a minor, with 64 other charges taken into consideration.
Describing Yap’s offences as “particularly heinous”, High Court judge Woo Bih Li said apart from a deterrent sentence, the punishment should also reflect the sentencing principle of “retribution” and the degree of harm he had caused.
“It is not just the physical harm caused to the victims which is relevant. The actual and long-term emotional and psychological harm must also be taken into account,” said Justice Woo.
His sentence corresponded with the minimum 30-year jail term and 24 strokes of the cane — the maximum permitted under the Criminal Procedure Code — sought by the prosecution. Justice Woo also said he was unconvinced Yap was genuinely remorseful.
When first interviewed by the police, Yap had tried to downplay the extent of his offences by indicating that he only engaged in oral and anal sex with three boys.
“(His plea) did not spring from genuine remorse, but from a realisation that his goose was as good as cooked,” Justice Woo said.
He also gave little weight to the defence’s argument that Yap has been diagnosed as a suicide risk. Judicial mercy, said Justice Woo, will only be exercised in “most exceptional circumstances” of ill health, such as where the offender is suffering from a terminal illness, or is so ill that a prison term will risk endangering his life.
Yap’s suicidal tendencies are “phrased in tentative terms”, Justice Woo said, and will have to be properly managed by the prison authorities.
Justice Woo also noted that Yap’s offences were premeditated. To satisfy his urges, Yap first befriended his young victims online, earned their trust and breached it.
Justice Woo added that Yap’s use of the Internet was an aggravating factor, in that there is a strong public interest to deter potential sexual offenders from using the medium to lure their victims.
By recording his acts, Yap also exposed his victims to the risk of the videos falling into the hands of third parties and being circulated, Justice Woo said.