24 testimonials couldn't save Howard Shaw

Howard Shaw (right) and his wife, Ms Jessie Xue, arriving in the Subordinate Courts building for his sentencing on July 30.

SINAGPORE - Nervous.

It was the only word that Howard Shaw Chai Li could say when approached by The New Paper minutes before he was sentenced on Monday.

Though Shaw, 41, tried to put up a brave front as cameras clicked away as he entered the Subordinate Courts building, his shaky voice betrayed his nervousness.

Earlier in the morning, his lawyer, Senior Counsel Harpreet Singh Nehal, had delivered a 90-minute closing statement about Shaw's "honest and reasonable" mistake in engaging the service of an underage prostitute.

Mr Singh, of Wong Partnership LLP, also presented no less than 24 written testimonials to Senior District Judge See Kee Oon to take into consideration for the sentencing.

But all these could not save Shaw from a jail sentence.

Paid S$500

The grandson of the founder of cinema giant Shaw Organisation was sentenced to 12weeks' jail for paying S$500 for sex with the underage girl at Hotel 81 Bencoolen on Oct 30, 2010.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Sellakumaran had earlier submitted that a sentence of three months' imprisonment would be appropriate.

Paying for sex with anyone under 18 is punishable with jail of up to seven years, a fine, or both.

Shaw's lawyer said he will be appealing against the sentence, and Shaw's police bail of S$10,000 was extended to court bail of the same amount.

An appeal must be submitted within 10 days.

Ten of the 24 written testimonials to Shaw's good character were work-related and came from such high-fliers as a company chairman, managing director, chairman-CEO and top academics.

The other 14 who wrote personal testimonials ran the gamut from other business leaders to a national service (NS) diving buddy to childhood friends to even a former maid.

These testimonies, which portrayed Shaw as an unassuming man who respected people and was a wonderful and loving father, were unsolicited, Mr Singh told the court.

The citation by one of Shaw's former maids described him as a down-to-earth, kind, generous, humble and understanding employer.

She remembered him as a quiet person, but always smiling.

"He never asks for food, he cooks instead! Lots of time (sic) he helped me clean the house when he had a party!" Ms Julie Pondevilla wrote in an e-mail sent to Shaw's mother, MrsLinda Shaw.

"He is a simple man and he doesn't care if he wears the same, old, white T-shirt."

Ms Pondevilla also wrote about how Shaw used to bring home reptiles that would freak her out. And it was Shaw who passed his love of animals and nature to her.

A childhood friend, Ms Karen Seah, who has known him since they were nine, described Shaw as a rare individual who is helpful, patient and tolerant.

"He would always take a person's word and give people the benefit of the doubt," MsSeah, who went to boarding school and university with Shaw, wrote in her letter.

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