Video evidence clears alleged molester

Court rules victim's description does not tally with what the recordings show

A defence lawyer who argued that a woman who had been molested identified the wrong suspect was vindicated by a district court this week.

It found that her description did not tally with what was seen on video cameras near the crime scene.

District Judge Jasvender Kaur, who acquitted the 25-year-old accused on Monday, ruled that the prosecution did not prove its case.

She noted that the teenage victim was also only "80 per cent sure" at the identification parade.

The court imposed a gag order on information that might lead to the identity of the victim, who lived in the same area as the suspect. Both are Singaporeans.

The suspect was alleged to have robbed her of $40 in July last year, armed with a knife. He was said to have committed aggravated molestation on the sixth floor of a Housing Board block. When he let go of her, she fled to her flat on a lower floor and called the police.

The accused was arrested within a week, the trial took place in May and final submissions were made by DPP Mansoor Amir and defence lawyer R. S. Bajwa on Monday.

Mr Mansoor said that prosecutors had to prove the case only "beyond any reasonable doubt and not beyond all doubt".

He added that the victim's identification evidence was of good quality and the "odd coincidences clearly suggest there was no mistake as to her identification".

Mr Bajwa said the discrepancies in the girl's testimony raised the possibility of mistaken identity.

For instance, she called the police immediately after she fled from the accused and reached her unit, taking less than a minute.

The accused was seen on a video camera, just two seconds before her call was lodged, near an HDB block that was about two minutes away from the crime scene.

This meant that after the end of the incident, the accused had only about half a minute to go down from the sixth floor of the block where the crime was allegedly committed and reach the block where he was seen on the video camera - this was impossible, said Mr Bajwa.

The victim had also said the accused wore a shirt with blue and white horizontal stripes and used covered shoes, and described him as "tanned". However, evidence taken from video cameras in the area showed the accused before and after the incident wearing a plain blue T-shirt without any stripes. He was not using covered shoes. He was also not tanned as described by the victim.

Mr Bajwa urged the court that, as the only witness, the victim's testimony had to be analysed carefully and the description of the accused and his attire had to be taken as a whole and not separately.

The accused's father, when contacted, said: "My family feels vindicated by the verdict. My son has always maintained his innocence."

The Attorney-General's Chambers said it will study the court's grounds of decision before deciding whether to appeal. A spokesman said: "The victim had positively identified the accused both during police investigations and in court during the trial. However, the defence submitted to the court that there were certain discrepancies in the victim's evidence and the court subsequently held that the prosecution had not proven its case beyond a reasonable doubt."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 30, 2015, with the headline 'Video evidence clears alleged molester'. Print Edition | Subscribe