"I caused the greatest damage to my wife"

A former school principal Friday became the first man to be jailed for having paid sex with an underage prostitute.

Former Pei Chun Public School principal Lee Lip Hong, 39, was jailed for nine weeks after pleading guilty to sleeping with the girl on Sept 26, 2010.

Another charge of paying her for sex on Dec 14, 2010, was taken into consideration.

Another 47 men have been charged so far with having commercial sex with the same prostitute.

Before entering the Subordinate Courts Friday, Lee told reporters that he confessed to his wife that he had cheated on her on Dec 2 last year.

That was the day he went for his first interview at the Criminal Investigation Department.

When asked what his wife had thought, Lee said he had caused her enough distress and he had to take responsibility for his own actions.

He added: "As a husband, the greatest damage has been to my wife. I thought to myself, how could I do such a thing to my wife?"

He said that before the incident, they had not been wearing their wedding bands for some time.

Two days later, they decided to renew their marriage vows.

He also informed his superiors of the crime, offering to resign.

Lee told reporters: "My top priority is now my family, not my career or reputation. I want to be a true husband, and a good father."

Lee's wife and seven-year-old daughter did not accompany him to court Friday.

He arrived an hour before court proceedings started and sat outside the courtroom with an ex-classmate, who was his guarantor.

Solemn and dressed in a business suit, Lee told reporters that he decided to engage a lawyer following advice from his friends and relatives.

When he was first charged on April 16, Lee had said he intended to plead guilty.

He told reporters in Mandarin: "My stand hasn't changed... I engaged a lawyer because I'm not an expert in law and did not want to waste the court's time.

"But this isn't to detract from my sincere intention to admit to my crime."

According to court documents, Lee had opened an e-mail in 2010 and found that it was an advertisement for an online escort service.

He sent an SMS to the girl's pimp, Tang Boon Thiew, on Sept 26, 2010, asking if she was available for a booking.

Tang, who only communicated with customers via SMS, replied that she was available at 7pm that day.

Tang said it would cost $450 an hour and Lee agreed to meet her at Hotel 81 Bencoolen.

He paid her $500, including a $50 tip, for an hour-long session.

He again paid her $500 in December after having sex at Strand Hotel in Bencoolen Street.

Lee's lawyer, Ms Melanie Ho, told the court that Lee had no intention to procure the services of a minor.

She highlighted that the website which Lee accessed had published the girl's age as 18. Before meeting the girl, Lee had checked with Tang, who SMSed that she was 19.

When they met, the girl told Lee she was 19.

Said Ms Ho: "He had no reason to doubt (the girl's) age, be it based on her physical appearance, demeanour or maturity."

But Deputy Public Prosecutor Andrew Tan argued that the conflicting ages cited should have aroused Lee's suspicions.

In his grounds of decision, Senior District Judge See Kee Oon said that while the victim's actions might be considered immoral by certain standards, it had to be weighed against the morality of those whose demand for such services mad eit a lucrative trade.

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