Education

Principal jailed 12 weeks for molesting

PUBLISHED : Friday, 30 November, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 30 November, 2007, 12:00am

Magistrate decries assaults on teachers

A former primary school principal was jailed for 12 weeks and fined HK$3,000 at Kwun Tong Court yesterday for molesting four teachers.

Magistrate Gary Lam Kar-yan described the assaults by So Yau-hang, 53, which took place over six years from 2000, as 'acts of sexual harassment, in which a male boss takes advantage of his female subordinate'.

So was released on bail pending an appeal after he was convicted on 10 counts of indecent assault and three counts of common assault, most of which had occurred in his office when he had invited women staff members in for a chat about schoolwork.

So, who is married with two children, was head and founder of Yan Oi Tong Tin Ka Ping Primary School.

The four victims complained So touched or rubbed their thighs or necks, spanked their bottoms, pulled their bra straps and forced them into embraces while they were alone in his office.

The magistrate said three of the assaults constituted common assault rather than indecent assault as the defendant placed his hand on a victim's shoulder or neck and pinched the face and waist of another.

The defence had earlier said the victims fabricated their stories because they knew So was going to name them in a report to the school's board about cheating on an exam.

Defence barrister Alan So also argued it was illogical for the victims, who have all actively participated in social functions with So, to have tolerated the alleged abuse for years.

The magistrate disagreed, saying the exam probe only prompted their complaints to the school board, which he considered honest and reliable accounts.

He said the serious allegations were made by educated teachers and had they intended to malign So to get rid of him, they would have come up with a better story.

The magistrate also added that if the complainants were out to get rid of the principal, why then were there only four of them, when initially 20 other teachers had reported cases of abuse to the police.

It was normal for the victims to tolerate the assaults, which were not serious groping, in order to save their jobs, he said.

The four teachers had tolerated So's actions, pretended they were on good terms with him and hid their discontent at work as a way of keeping their jobs, he said.

In mitigation, the defence barrister said his client had been penalised because the conviction has cost him his pension, his reputation and had also ended his future in education.

The magistrate believed So was an 'outstanding' principal who helped the school achieve a reputable reputation within just a few years of his founding it in 1999. But he said he spared no sympathy for So's losses, saying he should have foreseen the consequence of his actions.

'You assaulted the female teachers many times in the capacity as a school principal,' Mr Lam said. 'Your behaviour is agonising as you have abused their trust and respect in you. You have disappointed your students and their parents when you should have been a role model and set an example [for them].