NUS 2 strikes policy ensures full brunt of lasting formal sanctions not brought to bear on sex crimes perpetrators

The debate is whether the rehabilitative function has superseded the deterrence function.

Matthias Ang | April 23, 2019, 07:57 AM

Editor's note, April 24, 1.20am:

This article's headline and parts of the piece have been edited to better highlight the two strikes policy that is practised by NUS.

The original headline, "Leniency in NUS is real as non-student offenders of sex crimes on S'pore campuses get jail time", has been edited to, "NUS 2 strikes policy ensures full brunt of lasting formal sanctions not brought to bear on sex crimes perpetrators".

This is in light of the police statement released on April 23, which revealed details about why the perpetrator Nicholas Lim was given a conditional warning instead of a jail term.

There is a heated debate over how severe student sex crime offenders in the National University of Singapore ought to be punished by the tertiary institution itself.

This debate centres on how leniency is akin to giving student offenders a free pass, with the first offence almost not counting for anything consequential.

Recap of events

Here is a brief summary of the latest developments so far, since the scandal of a male NUS student who did not get hit by any lasting or formal criminal sanctions for filming a female student showering first broke on April 19:

  • NUS has stated it will convene a committee to review the current disciplinary and support frameworks, as well as hold a town hall on sexual misconduct.
  • Meanwhile, two separate petitions have been started on behalf of the female student who was filmed, and nearly 500 NUS students have issued and signed a statement of concern on sexual harassment on campus.
  • Local insurance giant, Great Eastern, has suspended the male student, Nicholas Lim, who is a financial advisor with the company, on grounds of inappropriate misconduct.

    • Lim has since submitted his resignation from the company.

NUS punished Lim by:

1. Making him write a compulsory apology letter.

2. Making him go for mandatory counselling.

3. Not allowing him in the dorms anymore.

4. Giving him a one-semester suspension.

Two strikes policy too lenient

The punishment for the male NUS student in this latest incident has been consistent with how the university has dealt with such crimes.

NUS student offenders were consistently let off with no lasting repercussions and such outcomes have been in line with the type of punishments that NUS has been handing out for years -- some 20 cases of insult or outrage of modesty that go all the way back to 2015.

This is mainly due to the two-strike policy, which is now under review.

The debate is whether the rehabilitative function of a more lenient punishment framework by NUS has superseded the deterrence function.

What has the public noticed

One area the public has noticed is that non-student offenders who commit sex crimes on campuses in Singapore have been jailed for extended periods of time -- similar to how offenders are punished for similar crimes outside of campuses.

But facing the full brunt of the law is, of course, dependent on the nature of the crimes.

And such crimes that get reported are severe enough to warrant public attention in the first place (i.e. it is severe because it is reported, it is reported because it is severe enough.)

For example, was the act premeditated, were there aggravating factors to justify a more severe punishment, and what are the odds of rehabilitating the culprit.

Here are some of the cases previously reported in the news, where the full brunt of the law was brought to bear on the perpetrators, owing to the relatively more severe nature of their crimes -- outcomes which the public has come to view as necessarily severe to act as deterrence.

2016: RP graduate jailed 10 weeks for filming woman in polytechnic's swimming complex

In June 2016, a 23-year-old graduate of Republic Polytechnic (RP), Ang Wei Sheng, was sentenced to 10 weeks' jail for filming a 25-year-old woman while she was showering, The Straits Times reported.

The incident had occurred in November 2015 in the swimming complex of RP.

Ang went into the cubicle next to the one occupied by a woman, whereupon he placed his phone under the divider and recorded her taking a shower.

Ang fled when the woman, upon seeing the phone, started to shout.

He also deleted the video sometime afterwards.

Ang was subsequently jailed for 10 weeks after pleading guilty to criminal trespass and insulting the modesty of a woman.

In determining the sentence, Deputy Public Prosecutor Yvonne Poon said that there was a degree of planning and premeditation involved in Ang's offences.

Ang had intentionally covered the CCTVs with plastic bags, disguised himself with a towel, and used a plastic bag to protect his phone while filming in the shower.

2018: NIE trainee teacher jailed four weeks for filming NTU students masturbating in shower

In another case, a 25-year-old final-year student at the National Institute of Education (NIE), Mitchell Low Tian Wei, was sentenced in February 2018 to four weeks' jail after being convicted of five counts of making obscene films.

In this case, Low had spent eight months filming male students in the shower at an NTU Hall of Residence since his third year of studies.

He had recorded videos of people masturbating with their private parts exposed, as well as of other men relieving themselves in the loo.

Low was caught in October 2016, in which the 22-year-old male victim he filmed while showering noticed a green blinking light at the top of the cubicle.

Upon his arrest, Low was found by the police to have 14 obscene films and 61 uncensored films of men showering in Low’s phone.

2019: Man jailed 12 weeks for filming women in Tampines toilet

In yet another case, 30-year-old Bryan Fang Zhongquan was sentenced to 12 weeks' jail in March 26, 2019, for filming women in a toilet at Tampines.

In this case, Fang had pleaded guilty to one count of trespassing into the female toilet, and four counts of insulting women’s modesty.

Fang was caught in December 2018, when he filmed three women who were friends with each other, whereupon one of them noticed his phone under the cubicles' partition.

The perpetrator then tried to make a run for it, but was thwarted by a male friend of the three women.

Prior to being arrested by the police, Fang pleaded to be let go and wished the victims "Merry Christmas".

How NUS has handled such cases:

Here's what has happened so far:

Top image via NUS Facebook and Baey's Instagram


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