Ex-Grab driver on trial for attempted rape of drunk passenger, prosecution & defence argue over issue of consent

Section 90 of the Penal Code recognises that there are situations where a person is so intoxicated that they cannot give consent.

Andrew Koay | March 16, 2021, 08:42 PM

Whether or a not a woman consented to the sexual acts performed on her by her Grab driver was a significant part of a High Court case in Singapore on Mar. 15.

The trial sees 46-year-old Tan Yew Sin accused of the attempted rape of an intoxicated 19-year-old passenger.

CNA reported that Tan is contesting the charges, which also include sexual assault and outrage of modesty.

Picked up the woman and performed sexual acts on her

According to court documents seen by Mothership, Tan — who was working as a Grab driver at the time — picked up the woman from a bar in Seletar around 2:30pm on May 19, 2018.

Prosecutors said in their opening address that the woman's friends informed Tan that she was drunk and passed her a plastic bag in case she had to vomit.

After boarding the vehicle, the woman laid down in the back seat and began to cry.

Upon reaching her condominium, the woman had trouble entering her residence through its side gate.

The prosecution told the court that she ended up squatting on the ground and crying.

Drove woman to a more secluded area

At this point, Tan approached the woman and brought her back to his car, where she became agitated, banged her head on the car's window, and beat her chest with her fist.

Tan then engaged in sexual acts such as fondling the woman's privates and attempting to penetrate her, said the prosecution, citing Tan's narration of the events to the police.

He is said to have later driven the woman to a secluded area and attempted more sexual acts before she pushed his hands away, after which Tan stopped and drove the woman back to her condominium.

She was later found by another Grab driver lying in the middle of a road nearby her residence, missing her underwear and safety shorts. This second Grab driver alerted the police.

The defence and prosecution argue over consent

Complainant participated in sexual acts: Defence

According to CNA, Tan's lawyer Chenthil Kumarasingam claimed that consent was given by the woman and that Tan stopped after she said "no".

Kumarasingam said that woman had "participated" in the sexual acts by engaging in oral sex, adding that she could be heard moaning in footage from Tan's in-car camera.

But Deputy Public Prosecutor M Kayal Pillay said that the moaning was in response to physical stimulation, and should be differentiated against the response of someone consensually participating.

She added that the woman "was unaware of the mechanics" of giving oral sex to Tan, and according to a doctor's testimony for the prosecution, if someone does not know the mechanics of a particular act, they would not learn how to do so after becoming drunk.

Complainant could not give consent in her intoxicated state: Prosecution

The prosecution argued there was some evidence that the woman did not have the capacity to consent in the first place, and was in fact significantly intoxicated to the point that she could not give her consent.

She said both sides agreed that the woman was intoxicated, but the issue was to what degree.

Section 90 of the Penal Code recognises that there are situations where a person is so intoxicated that they cannot give consent.

Pillay also pointed to the lack of expressed consent captured by the in-car camera footage and Tan's acceptance in his police statement that the woman had not expressed her consent.

As to the defence's argument that there was some kind of "implied consent" due to the woman's supposed participation in the sexual acts, Pillay said this notion of participation is not borne out, but said there was some evidence that she did not give consent.

Decision to be adjourned to a later date

Justice Pang Khang Chau adjourned his decision to a later date, reported CNA.

He could accept the defence's arguments and dismiss the case or alter the charge or frame a new charge before calling on the accused to give his defence.

The judge could also accept the prosecution's arguments and call on the accused to decide whether he wants to take the stand to testify.

If convicted of attempted rape or sexual assault by penetration, Tan could be jailed for up to 20 years, fined, or caned.

If found guilty of outrage of modesty, he could be jailed for up to two years, fined, caned, or given any combination of these punishments.

Top image by Maxim Hopman via Unsplash