On Sep. 25, 2019, a student from the National University of Singapore (NUS) was sentenced to probation for repeatedly molesting a woman at Serangoon MRT station in September 2018.
Escaped jail term because of good academic results
Terence Siow Kai Yuan, 23, was not jailed as District Judge Jasvender Kaur deemed Siow suitable for probation because his academic results showed he had the “potential to excel in life”.
Case received a lot of attention from the public
This case has received a lot of attention from members of the public who viewed the sentence to be too light.
An online petition was set up on Sep. 27 to show displeasure and disappointment at Siow's sentence.
The petition is still ongoing.
As of the time of writing, there are now over 86,000 signatures.
Judge explains sentence
Despite all the attention and pressure from the public, Judge Kaur laid out the reasoning for her decision, which is publicly available.
Based on her written judgement on Nov. 8, 2019, Kaur cited seven factors she considered that led to her final sentence.
1. Degree of the sexual exploitation
The degree of sexual exploitation includes the part of the victim’s body that was touched, how it was touched and how long the touch lasted.
Siow was guilty for using one finger to touch the victim's buttocks over her shorts.
The touch was described as "light and brief".
Siow also faced two other similar charges that were taken into consideration for the purpose of sentence.
For the taken into consideration charges, Siow was accused of touching the victim's outer side of the right thigh with the back of his left hand.
However, Deputy Public Prosecutor Deborah Lee stated that the victim “did not make a mental note of which part of the thigh was being touched”.
"As for the manner and duration of the touch on the buttock, the mitigation described it as a light and brief touch.
The prosecution did not take issue with the description.
For the TIC (taken into consideration) charges, the touches were clearly momentary as the victim was uncertain if the touches were accidental or otherwise.
Accordingly, I determined that the degree of sexual exploitation was low."
2. Circumstances of the offence
The offences were committed on board an MRT train.
Kaur agreed that this was an aggravating factor as commuters must feel safe when using public transport.
However, she disagreed with the two other aggravating factor suggested by the prosecution.
The second aggravating factor was that Siow had "actively" followed the victim to the escalator.
But Siow had, in fact, intended to alight at Serangoon MRT Station where the victim also alighted.
Kaur said that there was nothing to suggest that Siow had gone out of his way to follow the victim to the same escalator.
The third aggravating factor was that Siow hastily exited after the victim reported the incident to a station officer.
But Kaur stated that there was no attempt made to detain him.
3. Harm caused to the victim
Kaur noted that an outrage of modesty offence will have a negative impact on the victim, but she believes that there was no severe harm caused to Siow's victim.
"Whilst such an offence naturally causes distress and anxiety to women, there was no victim statement tendered and the statement of facts also does not state that the victim suffered from psychological trauma as a consequence of the incident.
There was therefore no ‘severe harm’."
4. Accused’s admission to past offences
Siow admitted to a probation officer that he had previously touched other women in crowded buses or trains but was not caught.
This behaviour started when he entered university in August 2016.
However, Kaur clarified that based on established principles of law, Siow can only be sentenced for the offence which he has pleaded guilty to and consented to be taken into consideration.
"In my judgment, an offender cannot be punished for conduct which has not formed the subject of the charges brought against him; he can only be sentenced for offences of which he has been convicted, either by trial or a plea of guilt, and in doing so, regard may properly be had only to any other charges which the accused has consented to being taken into consideration for the purpose of sentencing."
5. Taken into consideration charges for the purposes of sentence
Siow pleaded guilty to one charge of outraging the modesty of a 28-year-old woman after using his finger to touch her buttocks.
The two taken into consideration charges related to the accused touching the side of the victim’s right thigh with the back of his left hand.
"The two TIC (taken into consideration) charges are identical and against the same victim.
In view of the relatively minor nature of the intrusions, I determined the enhancement of the sentence to be limited."
6. Plea of guilt and cooperation with authorities
Siow had pleaded guilty without any pre-trial conference being fixed.
The investigation officer reported that Siow was "co-operative during investigations".
Kaur said she was satisfied that the plea of guilt was "motivated by regret and to facilitate the administration of justice".
7. Accused’s strong potential for reform
Kaur added that Siow's good academic results and other strengths and protective factors showed the "strong potential for reform".
In 2012 and 2013, Siow was studying in a junior college and his conduct was "excellent".
In August 2016, he pursued a major in Mathematics in NUS and he also did 13 hours of volunteer work.
Siow also "expressed remorse and regret for his actions".
He acknowledged his mistakes and the hurt that he caused the victim and his parents for his behaviour.
He also came clean and confessed to all that he had done prior to his arrest.
"The probation officer recommended that the during the 21-month probation, the accused be referred to an offence-specific treatment programme to address his distorted cognitions about social boundaries and to teach appropriate social skills and age-appropriate sexual practices.
I agreed with this recommendation as the accused is clearly not matured to handle his sexuality."
Siow was 22 years old when he committed the offence.
At the end of her written judgement, Kaur said:
"The order of probation should not be seen as a soft option.
During the period of 21 months, the accused would have to perform 150 hours of community service, be subjected to a time curfew and attend offence-specific treatment programmes which will address any risk of reoffending and enable him to be a useful member of society.
In my view, this will be in the best interests of not only the accused but of society."
Top photos via Terence Siow/Facebook & Melanie Lim.
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