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Bar owner who raped 17-year-old runaway girl he was harbouring gets jail and caning

SINGAPORE: A bar owner took in a 17-year-old girl who had run away from a girls’ home and allowed her to work for him, but later raped her in his apartment.

Raj Kumar Bala, a 42-year-old Singaporean, was sentenced to jail for 13 years and four weeks on Monday (Jul 8) and will receive nine strokes of the cane.

He had been convicted of a charge each of raping and molesting the victim and pleaded guilty to a third charge of harbouring a runaway under the Children and Young Persons Act.

The court heard that the victim was 17 in February 2020 when she ran away from the Singapore Girls’ Home.

She found out about a job opportunity at Raj Kumar’s Don Bar & Bistro in Dunlop Street through another runaway who was working there.

The other runaway was also sexually assaulted by Raj Kumar in a charge stood down for the time being.

The victim went down to the bar to interview for the job and met Raj Kumar, who described the job duties to her – including serving customers and making drinks. He offered her the role, saying she could stay at the bar with other runaways.

The victim worked at the bar for a few days, but the police received a tip-off about people who absconded and worked there. They raided the place in the early hours of Feb 22, 2020.

The victim fled with another girl, heading to Sim Lim Tower to escape the raid before being picked up by Raj Kumar.

He drove them to his condominium, telling them they could stay there, before drinking alcohol with the girls.

He raped the victim while she was heavily intoxicated and also engaged in sex acts with another girl.

The victim left the condo and surrendered herself to the home in July 2020, but told her case worker only in August 2020 that she had been raped.

JUDGE’S FINDINGS

Justice Mavis Chionh noted the “considerable personal harm” inflicted on the victim, who blames herself as to how she came to be in an intoxicated state that led to her rape.

Her testimony in court, which was corroborated by her ex-boyfriend, illustrated how the trauma from her past would be revived in a way that negatively affects her well-being, noted the judge. 

She said Raj Kumar knew that the victim was young and on the run from the police, and she was dependent on him for income and shelter.

However, the judge rejected the prosecution’s call to run the sentences for the rape and molestation consecutively.

Defence lawyer Ramesh Tiwary asked for permission for his client to make a phone call to his uncle, who just suffered a heart attack and was hospitalised.

Mr Tiwary said he had advised his client, but was told to put forth another two applications – first, to be allowed to remain at Cluster B of Changi Prison despite the fact that he has been sentenced, and second – to be released on bail pending appeal.

Mr Tiwary explained that Raj Kumar’s uncle, who had been taking care of his wife and children, has now suffered a heart attack.

Raj Kumar wanted bail to sell his property and his business and leave the money behind for his wife and children.

As his wife and one of his sons are foreigners, Raj Kumar also wanted to apply for them to be permanent residents and to settle his son into school next year, said Mr Tiwary.

The judge rejected his request for bail and said the accused comes under the authority of the prisons once sentence is passed, and the court has no authority to tell prisons where the accused should serve his sentence.

Raj Kumar faces other pending charges and is yet to make a decision on what he intends to do with them.

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