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SINGAPORE – Stiffer penalties are being proposed for three sexual offences, such as outrage of modesty and offences involving sexual communication with minors.
In addressing Parliament on the review of the sentencing framework for sexual and hurt cases on Friday (March 5), Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam cited three cases that caused much public discussion.
He said of these and several other similar cases: “There was a public sense that the sentences were not adequate. Questions were asked (if there was) more leniency because of the educational qualifications of some of the offenders.”
Case 1: Terence Siow Kai Yuan
In September 2019, then 23-year-old National University of Singapore (NUS) student Terence Siow Kai Yuan was sentenced to 21 months of supervised probation after he molested a woman on an MRT train the year before.
He pleaded guilty to one charge of outraging the modesty of the 28-year-old woman, and two similar charges were taken into consideration during sentencing.
A probation report found that Siow had “good academic performance in school” and “highlighted his potential to excel in life”.
However, the prosecution appealed successfully against probation, and the High Court sentenced Siow to two weeks’ imprisonment in April 2020.
“(In) our view, that was appropriate,” said Mr Shanmugam.
In September 2019, Siow was on a train on the North-East Line heading towards Punggol station at about 11.30pm when he noticed a woman with “very long legs” in a pair of shorts.
He sat next to her and felt the urge to touch her, and later used his left hand to touch the outside of her right thigh.
She moved away from him and crossed her legs.
When Siow touched her right thigh again, she moved to another seat, and later alighted at Serangoon station.
But Siow followed her as he felt the urge to touch her again. When she got onto an escalator, he stood behind her and used his finger to touch her buttocks over her shorts.
The woman later made a police report.
Case 2: Yin Zi Qin
The 22-year-old NUS dentistry student tried to strangle his former girlfriend at her house in May 2019, and put his thumb into her eye, after she rejected him.
Yin Zi Qin was sentenced in July 2020 to a short detention order of 12 days, 80 hours of community service, and had to report daily to the authorities for five months.
Mr Shanmugam noted that the sentence in this case was decided in accordance with the law at the time.
Had the acts been committed on or after Jan 1, 2020 – when provisions were made to the Penal Code to stiffen some penalties – Yin would likely have been charged under the new provisions.
The offence would have been voluntarily causing hurt to a victim with whom he was in an intimate or close relationship.
“He would have been liable for up to twice the maximum penalty for voluntarily causing hurt, meaning up to six years’ jail, $10,000 fine, or both,” Mr Shanmugam added.
Yin would then not have been eligible for community-based sentences, which are generally available only for offences with a maximum jail term of not more than three years.
Case 3: Hoon Qi Tong
Former Singapore Management University student Hoon Qi Tong was sentenced to a short detention order of 14 days and 130 hours of community service after he used his mobile phone to film a woman in the toilet while on an internship in September 2017.
Offenders given a short detention order are put behind bars for a short time, but will not have a criminal record after their release.
The sentence was upheld by the High Court after the prosecution appealed.
Hoon saw his 31-year-old female colleague leaving her desk for the toilet and followed her.
He then entered the cubicle next to the one she was using, and positioned his phone over the partition to film her.
When the victim heard footsteps in the next cubicle, she looked up, saw the phone and immediately confronted Hoon.
She knocked on the door of the cubicle he was in. He did not deny filming her.
Hoon’s superiors and the police were alerted.
The court heard that Hoon had also taken other upskirt videos.
Mr Shanmugam noted that the offence was committed before the Penal Code amendments came into force in 2020, when such acts were usually prosecuted under insulting the modesty of a woman.
The offence was then punishable with up to one year’s imprisonment, a fine, or both.
It is different now, he said, with the introduction of a specific offence of voyeurism which carries double the penalty – two years’ jail, or a fine. “There is now also the possibility of caning,” the minister said.
He added that the Attorney-General’s Chambers will also in general object to probation or community-based sentences being imposed in cases involving voyeurism offences.
“Offenders who commit such offences cannot expect to be treated leniently,” Mr Shanmugam stressed.