Veteran coach Loh Chan Pew jailed 21 months for molesting teenage athlete
SINGAPORE – Veteran athletics coach Loh Siang Piow, also known as Loh Chan Pew, is jailed 21 months for molesting a teenage athlete twice in 2013. The 75-year-old was sentenced On Wednesday (July 22), ending a trial that has stretched over two years.
- District Judge Marvin Bay acknowledged coach Loh’s dedication to sporting excellence
- However, he said that Loh had abused the trust placed in him by his trainees
- The court must take a firm stance against offences committed against young and vulnerable victims, the judge said
SINGAPORE – Veteran athletics coach Loh Siang Piow, also known as Loh Chan Pew, is jailed 21 months for molesting a teenage athlete twice in 2013.
The 75-year-old was sentenced On Wednesday (July 22), ending a trial that has stretched over two years.
Loh was found guilty last month of two charges of using criminal force on his victim at Tampines Stadium in order to outrage her modesty. She was 18 at the time of the offences and cannot be named to protect her identity.
A one-time vice-president of Singapore Athletics, Loh is appealing the sentence and remains out on a S$15,000 bail.
In seeking a lighter sentence for his client, defence lawyer Victor Lee said that Loh had dedicated a good part of his life to promoting athletics in Singapore and has had a clean record up till now. He was a former national sprinter who has 35 years of experience in coaching.
Mr Lee also pointed to the 89 individuals who had stepped forward willingly to give testimonials to Mr Loh’s good character.
“Generations of athletes have benefitted from his tutelage,” Mr Lee said, as he sought a jail term of between seven and 10 months, instead of the 24 months that the prosecution wanted.
However, Deputy Public Prosecutor Gail Wong argued: “The offender was good at track (and field), but not so much as a person, and we need to see the testimonials in the light that they bear no relevance to the offences.”
In delivering his sentence, District Judge Marvin Bay said that he saw two aspects of Loh.
Based on the coach’s mitigation plea, the judge acknowledged that Loh has a “loyal and devoted following of persons who have benefitted from his instruction, association and friendship”, and that he has done much to earn his standing in the athletic community.
Yet, despite this public persona of dedication to sporting excellence, District Judge Bay noted that Loh has a “darker side”.
“Mr Loh is not beyond taking the opportunity afforded by the high regard of his coaching work, from exploiting the innocence of at least one young athlete he was entrusted to coach,” he added.
District Judge Bay said that there was a “deeply egregious abuse of trust” as young trainees are placed in the care of coaches and there is an expectation by them, their parents and the public at large that they will be protected from harm or exploitation.
“It is clear that the court must take a firm stand against offences committed against young persons who are placed in vulnerable situations where they may be susceptible to sexual exploitation or violation by the very persons entrusted with their welfare.”
Addressing a point raised by Mr Lee that his client was of old age and poor health, District Judge Bay said he was confident that the prison medical service can afford Loh a high standard of care to manage his conditions.
The victim was an aspiring national-level athlete who had some success in short-distance sprints.
She began training intensely in early 2013 and was coached by Loh, who also trained athletes from various schools, including a junior college and a university.
She testified that Loh organised one-on-one training sessions for her about two months after she started training under him, from end-January to mid-March in 2013.
These were supposedly organised to improve her performance at upcoming competitions, and the teenager initially felt lucky then to have the one-on-one training.
She went for the sessions on Sundays, and the first one went uneventfully. Loh offered a cool-down massage, and the girl agreed, thinking nothing of it.
As she lay prone, the coach massaged her calves from her ankles to her knees, and nothing out of the ordinary happened.
However, after another training session, Loh massaged the back of her calves to her thighs.
The victim testified that she could feel Loh molesting her but told herself that the contact was probably accidental or that he was being clumsy.
Still, she felt confused and uncomfortable and later told her mother that the coach had massaged her such that she felt uncomfortable.
Her mother told her to say "no", but the girl was concerned that her coach "would insist".
At the third training session, the coach met the victim's father and nothing untoward occurred.
However, he molested her again at the last training session.
Loh had asked the victim if she wanted a massage and she said "no".
In response, he said "just massage" and "cool-down massage", the victim testified. She tried to decline, but said that Loh persisted. She relented as she felt she had to comply given that he was her coach.
He took her to the equipment room and made her lie down before massaging her legs and molesting her. She told him to stop, but he said "just relax".
After this, Loh asked her to go for a meal and they did. Thereafter, she went only for group trainings.
During his trial, Loh denied ever molesting the girl and claimed that he never conducted any individual training sessions with her. However, the judge found that his defence lawyers failed to show that he was involved in other activities on the dates of both offences.
The case was complicated by the fact that the building housing the stadium no longer exists, with no independent witnesses and also that the victim filed a report only in July 2016, about three years after the incidents happened.
Loh will be back in court on Sept 14 when three other charges relating to a second victim are expected to be dealt with. Those charges were stood down for this 28-day trial, which began in 2018. The second victim was 16 years old at the time of the alleged offences.
For each charge of using criminal force to outrage the modesty of his victim, Loh could have been jailed up to two years or fined, or both. As he is above the age of 50, he cannot be caned by law.