Child pornography videos, some featuring girls as young as six and some lasting longer than an hour, were found in the possession of a Ministry of Education (MOE) scholar studying in Britain.
Singaporean Jonathan Wong (picture on right), a third-year history major at the University of York, pleaded guilty on Monday to 17 charges of owning child pornography videos since July 2008.
Jonathan Wong, 23, could be facing more than a year in jail after the magistrate’s court in York decided that its maximum sentencing power of 12 months in prison was insufficient and committed him instead to the York Crown Court where he will be sentenced on Dec 13, the city’s The Press newspaper reported.
In reply to media queries, the ministry said that it was looking into the matter and added that it “will take the necessary disciplinary action against those (scholars) who have behaved inappropriately”.
The Press said Jonathan Wong’s offenses came to light after fellow students alerted the campus authorities about suspicious audio files being uploaded onto the university’s intranet.
After tracing the files to Jonathan Wong, the police confiscated his computer hard disk drive and found 50 videos – 25 of which were rated as “four” on the Copine scale.
(The Copine Scale is a rating system used in the United Kingdom to categorise the severity of child pornography. Level 4 is where “penetrative sexual activity between child(ren) and adult(s) is involved”)
On this scale used to rate the severity of child pornography, levels “four” and “five” constitute hardcore pornography.
The North Yorkshire police told MediaCorp yesterday that Wong was arrested on March 19, adding that he did not produce the videos but downloaded some of them from the Internet.
According to The Press, UK prosecutor Martin Butterworth told the court: “We are talking about girls as young as six. Of the movies, some of them are graphic, some of them have audio, some of them last more than an hour.”
Since the case surfaced in the local Chinese media and online, Singaporeans and those acquainted with Wong have berated him and expressed shock over his actions.
A Singaporean student at University of York, however, painted a different picture of him. Describing Wong as a “big brother”, he told MediaCorp: “Jonathan is a nice, generous and helpful person … He gave me medicine when I was sick and he cooked us meals.”
The 22-year-old, who said he has known Wong for over a year, added: “He does not like loud parties but prefers a quiet peaceful dinner with friends … I am disgusted by what he has done but I feel sorry for him too as a friend.”
A spokesman for the University of York declined comment, saying it would respond to MediaCorp’s queries only after court proceedings have been concluded. With additional reporting by Saifulbahri Ismail