IN THE dock was a man who had confessed readily to sexually abusing five boys he was tutoring.
In the public gallery were about 60 of his ex-students, from teenage boys to men in their 30s, who turned up to show support for Philip Lim Beng Cheok, 52, who had tutored them in Mathematics at various times over the past 20 years.
Their dismay was palpable when sentence was passed: 18 years' jail.
Lim, said Justice Woo Bih Li, was an “extraordinary man” – in both a positive and perverse way.
He had turned the lives of some of his former students around – rescuing juvenile delinquents from street gangs and tutoring them for free.
But he had also abused his position of authority and trust when he got five boys – aged between 13 and 15 – to commit lewd acts in his Ang Mo Kio flat between December 2000 and July last year.
“The fact that your students look upon you as their mentor ... is an aggravating factor,” the judge said.
“You have taken advantage of them, and the sentence must reflect the public abhorrence of such acts.”
In deciding on an 18-year jail term, the judge told Lim:
“As you were able to instil discipline in your students, I am of the view that there is a fair chance that you would be able to do likewise for yourself, so as to refrain from ever abusing male children.”
By most accounts, Lim, who tutored boys exclusively, was a good teacher.
He taught the boys in a group in his flat, where he lived alone, and exercised iron discipline over them.
Some of them, including two of the five who were abused, sometimes stayed over, especially when examinations were near.
But Lim had other plans besides teaching.
He summoned his victims to another room and through a variety of ways – whether through a discussion of sex or threats to cut them off or stop his lessons – got them to take part in sex acts with him, or with each other. – The Straits Times/Asia News Network