Why Howard Shaw gets 12 weeks' jail, and not nine

Howard Shaw, grandson of Shaw Organisation founder Runme Shaw, had sex with an underage girl at a hotel in Bencoolen Street in October 2010 - without asking her how old she was.

Yesterday, Senior District Judge See Kee Oon highlighted that fact as he sentenced Shaw to 12 weeks' jail.

In comparison, the judge handed Mr Lee Lip Hong - a former primary-school principal and another one of the 51 men charged with the same crime - a nine-week jail sentence in April.

Mr Lee, 39, had asked the pimp for the prostitute's age beforehand, and was told by both the pimp and the prostitute that she was 19, according to earlier news reports.

During the hearing, the prosecution noted that a "significant" mitigating factor in Mr Lee's case was his "strong record of service in the education sector".

Deputy Public Prosecutor S. Sellakumaran added that although Shaw, 41, had been convicted of only one charge and Mr Lee of two charges - of which one was taken into consideration - the number of charges between the two cases was "not significant enough to warrant a lower starting point".

The prosecution then urged the court to impose a three- month jail term on Shaw.

In mitigation, Shaw's lawyer, Senior Counsel Harpreet Singh Nehal, asked for a non-custodial sentence because Shaw had made an "honest and reasonable mistake", based on his observation of the girl's physical attributes and demeanour.

Shaw pleaded guilty last month.

However, the judge rejected the argument, saying that Shaw's mistake was not "reasonable".

He said that perceptions of a person's age based on their appearances are "subjective and prone to error".

Shaw could have "guarded against a potential offence" by asking the girl for her age, but he did not take the steps to do so, the judge added.

While Shaw remained solemn throughout the hearing, his wife, Madam Jessie Xue, 26, who was present, was visibly concerned.

In the public gallery, she repeatedly turned to those beside her, asking questions as the judgment was passed.

Shaw's lawyers said that he would be appealing against his sentence, but declined to comment further. He is currently out on $10,000 bail.

Shaw, a prominent environmental activist, is the second to be sentenced in the high-profile underage-sex-scandal case.

The first was Mr Lee, who was released last month, after six weeks, for good behaviour.

Last Friday, three more men were charged with having paid sex with the same girl.

They are the founder of toy company Stikfas, Ban Yinh Jheow, 42; firm director and shareholder Arjunan Kulasegaram, 37; and Koh Hooi Hon, 43, who is a shareholder in a food-and- beverage company.

tongjh@sph.com.sg


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