Molester's lawyer 'acted indecently' during trial

Mr Wong focused on the victim's breast size, asked her to stand up and stared inappropriately at her when she was on the witness stand.
Mr Wong focused on the victim's breast size, asked her to stand up and stared inappropriately at her when she was on the witness stand.ST FILE PHOTO

Judge slams the scandalous way in which he questioned the victim and ogled her in court

A district judge had harsh words for a lawyer who focused on the breast size of a victim of molestation, even asking her to stand up while she was on the witness stand and staring inappropriately at her.

District Judge Shawn Ho said Mr Edmund Wong Sin Yee's conduct was completely unacceptable, deserving of disapprobation and fell short of expectations of lawyers.

Mr Wong, who is in his late 50s and runs his own firm S. Y. Wong Law Chambers, had defended Xu Jiadong, a 24-year-old student from China. Xu was found guilty of brushing his forearm against the breast of a 22-year-old woman in a train at Toa Payoh MRT station on July 9 two years ago.

ATTRACTIVENESS IS IMPORTANT

"Well, it's always that there must be a temptation, there must be something attractive for a person to do such a thing. So if you get an old lady, you think people want to molest her?

"So that is important and I want to show that if she is wearing a very low cut (top) with a very voluptuous breast protruding out, (of a ) half cut (top), then of course... the higher the tendency that people might commit such an offence.

LAWYER EDMUND WONG SIN YEE

NEEDLESSLY OFFENSIVE

"... Mr Wong's cross-examination appears to me to be intended to insult or annoy the victim... Even if I am incorrect, and his cross-examination is proper in itself, focusing on the victim's "breast size" and whether she has a "very voluptuous breast protruding out" is in my mind needlessly offensive.

DISTRICT JUDGE SHAWN HO

He was jailed for five months.

"Sacrosanct is our right to travel on public transport unmolested," said the judge in his 44-page decision grounds released yesterday.

Six of the pages were on Mr Wong's conduct, with the judge highlighting the manner in which the lawyer had cross-examined the victim - calling it indecent, scandalous and forbidden in court under the Evidence Act.

During the trial, Mr Wong had asked the victim to stand up. When the judge asked what he was trying to show, he said: "Your Honour, I want to see... how attractive (she is) when (she) stands up..."

This prompted the victim to ask if it was necessary, and that she found it offensive.

Shortly after, Deputy Public Prosecutor Kong Kuek Foo interrupted Mr Wong to ask whether it was his case that only attractive women would get molested in the train.

Mr Wong, a marketing manager of a multinational company before becoming a lawyer in 1998, replied: "If you get an old lady, you think people want to molest her?

"... I want to show that if she is wearing a very low-cut (top) with a very voluptuous breast protruding out... then of course... the higher the tendency that people might commit such an offence.

"So I'm trying to put my case that, you know, looking at the day (how) she was dressed and... her breast size and all these things ... whether there is temptation for anybody or the accused to do such a thing."

Judge Ho gave reasons why Mr Wong's conduct was lamentable.

"First, the manner that the defence counsel stared inappropriately at the victim's breasts... was a grim reminder writ large of what (Xu) had subjected the victim to on the MRT train.

"It made the victim relive her odious experience. Distress was evoked, with the victim trying to hold back her tears in court.

"The proceedings were immediately stopped... But the damage had been done... During the afternoon session, the victim was visibly affected."

Judge Ho said Mr Wong had also ignored the victim's distress with his questioning, and added that the humiliation of victims of sexual crimes in court could discourage future victims from coming forward.

"Finally, members of the Bar need to observe high standards of professional conduct and a proper sense of responsibility in the conduct of cases; if this is not done, the whole profession will suffer in the public's estimation.

"Put simply, the defence counsel's conduct is completely unacceptable and deserves disapprobation. "

Mr Wong has a history of offences.

In August 1992, he punched a nurse at the Singapore National Eye Centre and insulted the modesty of a woman working at the clinic.

A few months after being called to the Bar, he hit a motorist in the mouth with his mobile phone, for which he eventually got a year in jail.

In July 2003, he was suspended from practice for two years over the road rage conviction.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 05, 2016, with the headline 'Molester's lawyer 'acted indecently' during trial'. Print Edition | Subscribe