Lawyer: Shaw made honest mistake

After weeks of conjecture about environmental activist Howard Shaw's intention to plead guilty for having paid sex with an underage prostitute, the Shaw family scion yesterday admitted to doing so.

The 41-year-old former executive director of the Singapore Environment Council told Senior District Judge See Kee Oon calmly, "I plead guilty, Your Honour", after his charges were read again in court.

Shaw, who is the grandson of Shaw Organisation founder Runme Shaw, arrived in court with his wife, Madam Jessie Xue, 26.

His lawyer, Senior Counsel Harpreet Singh Nehal of WongPartnership, asked for a non-custodial sentence, which is a sentence without jail time.

He argued that Shaw's offence was "committed unwittingly and unknowingly, as a result of an honest and reasonable mistake".

He also said that the prostitute had "worked hand in glove" with pimp Tang Boon Thiew, 38, to deceive Shaw about her age and "deliberately misled him into believing he was engaged in perfectly lawful activity when she knew it was not".

He added that based on the girl's "physical attributes (and other things), there are solid grounds for have made an honest and reasonable mistake in believing (she) was not a minor".

It was revealed in court that Shaw became acquainted with Tang's website advertising social-escort services while he was browsing the Internet in 2010.

He proceeded to obtain the prostitute's services on Oct 29, 2010, by contacting Tang through SMS.

The prostitute, who was 17 at the time, met Shaw at around 4pm the next day at Hotel 81 Bencoolen, where they had sexual intercourse.

After yesterday's hearing, Shaw was seen smiling and chatting with his wife and another woman, believed to be his sister.

Two other men, Indonesian Wilson Oei, 25, and production manager Chiang Meng Chuan, 32, also pleaded guilty to having paid sex with the same prostitute yesterday.

Both contacted the pimp and obtained the prostitute's services after they found out about Tang's website from an online forum.

All three will be back in court within the next two months.

In April, 48 men - including civil servants, businessmen and a formal senior legal counsel - were charged with having paid sex with an underage girl.

Yesterday's hearing brings the total number of men convicted of having paid sex with an underage prostitute to four. The first was Lee Lip Hong, 38, the former principal of Pei Chun Public School.

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