Gag order in Catholic order sex abuse case to protect victims, not accused: AGC
The gag order in the case involving a member of a Catholic order who sexually abused two boys was not intended to protect the offender or the particular Catholic Order.
The Attorney-General's Chambers said in a statement on Monday (June 6) that it applied for the gag order to protect the identity of the victims.
"It was not in any way sought to protect the interests of the accused person, or of the Catholic Order involved.
"The gag order covered the identity of the accused because, based on the facts and circumstances of the case, the identification of the accused was likely to lead to the identification of the victims," said the AGC.
The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Singapore on Sunday night (June 5) said that it had requested the AGC partially lift the gag order, so the identity of the offender, the religious order and details of the offender's subsequent treatment and postings could be made known.
The AGC said in its statement on Monday that it considers every request to lift a gag order carefully as victims' interests are paramount, and in this instance, it could not accede to the request.
The man, who The Straits Times understands is not a priest, is in his 60s, and he was part of a Catholic religious order that established a school in Singapore.
He was arrested in January this year and was jailed for five years last month after pleading guilty to one charge of having carnal intercourse and another charge under the Children and Young Persons Act.
He committed the sex act on the first victim in 2005 and the second victim in 2007, according to court documents. The boys were aged between 14 and 15 at the time of the offences.
Details about the man and his victims cannot be disclosed due to the gag order, which also covers the man's designation and appointment and where the incidents occurred.
The religious order the man was involved in said on Sunday that its local leader learnt of the incidents in 2009, when one of the victims confided in him. Both the victims had already left the school then.
The order, which is a community not governed by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Singapore, said that the victims were interviewed, counselled, and also repeatedly told that they could make a police report, but refused.
"(They) were insistent in wanting to keep the matter private. Out of respect for the stated wishes and requested privacy of the victims, the superior did not make a police report," said the order, which added that it was not aware of other victims, and the man had confirmed this.
The superior sent the man for treatment in an intensive six-month programme in the United States paid for by the order.
He was then posted overseas, following the recommendations of the treatment centre, such as ensuring he did not work with minors.
The man returned to Singapore to renew his missionary visa in March 2020, and was unable to return to his country of ministry owing to the pandemic.
His offences were then brought to the attention of the school board, and the matter was reported to the police on May 10 last year.
In relation to the case, the police said last month that they issued a written advisory to a 64-year-old man who did not report to them that a boy had been sexually abused in 2007.
The Catholic Church said the Catholic schools and their governing boards, school management committees adhere to the Education Ministry's protocols and laws in Singapore on reporting incidents involving sexual abuse of minors.