Veteran coach acquitted of molesting teen athlete after appeal to High Court , Latest Singapore News - The New Paper

Veteran coach acquitted of molesting teen athlete after appeal to High Court

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The High Court on Thursday acquitted veteran track and field coach Loh Siang Piow of molesting a teenage athlete in 2013, following his appeal against his conviction and sentence.

Mr Loh, 78, better known in the fraternity as Loh Chan Pew, was sentenced to 21 months’ jail in July 2020, after a trial that began in 2018.

He was convicted by a district judge of two counts of molesting a female athlete when she was 18 by rubbing her genitals on two occasions while massaging the back of her thighs.

The incidents allegedly took place at the old Tampines Stadium on Feb 24 and March 15 in 2013.

She lodged a police report against Mr Loh on July 30, 2016.

On Thursday, more than a dozen family members and former trainees in the public gallery sighed with relief after Justice Hoo Sheau Peng cleared him of both charges.

In acquitting Mr Loh, Justice Hoo said there were “inherent weaknesses” in the testimony of his accuser, identified as Ms C, and that it was “plainly wrong” for the trial judge to rely on her evidence to convict Mr Loh.

Justice Hoo said that not only did the accuser’s account lack specific details on the training session on Feb 24, 2013, but it also contains a crucial concession that she did not know if Mr Loh’s contact with her genital area was an “accidental part of the massage”.

“In fact, Ms C was not entirely clear where she was touched,” said the judge.

The accuser also claimed to have expressed discomfort to her parents over being touched, which was why her father accompanied her for a third session. But this account was not supported by either parent.

Justice Hoo also said Mr Loh had raised reasonable doubt that he was not at the Tampines Stadium on March 15, 2013.

She said: “The District Judge tended to resolve all doubts, discrepancies and contradictions in favour of the prosecution. In the final analysis, the serious doubts as to the veracity of Ms C’s allegations cannot be dismissed.” 

The judge also noted that at the time of the alleged offences, it was a prevalent practice in the athletic community for coaches to give trainees massages after intensive training.

“If the practice remains today, the community, including the coaches, should rethink and review the appropriateness of such a practice,” she said.

Should this continue to be a necessary practice, there should be proper safeguards adopted to minimise the potential for any abuse of the trainees by the coaches, or to prevent genuine misunderstandings between coaches and trainees, she said.

Approached for comment after the verdict, Mr Loh said in Mandarin that he was “feeling emotional”.

Charges relating to a second female athlete, who was 16 at the time of the alleged offences, have been stood down.