He had 280 obscene films for distribution

First of five in online group pleads guilty over hidden-camera films of schoolgirls in toilets

A sales engineer who was part of an online group that distributed voyeuristic videos taken with hidden cameras placed in public toilets and changing rooms has become the first to be convicted.

Joel Chew Weichen, 27, pleaded guilty yesterday to having 280 obscene films for distribution at his home in Whampoa Drive.

Details of the group's arrest in November last year emerged in court after a police report was lodged that films of schoolgirls relieving themselves or trying on clothes in changing rooms, as well as other obscene films, were being circulated on an online discussion site known as the Sammyboy Forum.

Chew was initially a member of Sammyboy Forum, and subsequently joined a Google group known as SG Horizon Club, as well as LittleSG, a Google group for people to share and download obscene films.

The Sammyboy Forum is a predominantly sex-themed online site that contains hundreds of threads sharing obscene material.

SG Horizon was set up late last year by Ali V.P. Mohamed, an unemployed man, for members to share sexually themed films. Members had to be Singaporeans, and Ali, 46, had to approve their joining.

Ali also publicised Horizon on Sammyboy, and encouraged its members to join Horizon.

He and four others - fund accountant Shaun Lee, 28, digital marketing specialist Clarence Tang Jia Ming, 25, and customer service officer Ong Yi Jie, alias Kenneth, 27 - are facing between one and 253 charges. Their cases are pending.

Through the three platforms, Chew downloaded and shared videos with other members.

During a raid on Nov 25 last year, police recovered four hard disk drives. Of the 775 films seized, 280 were obscene.

The stated purpose of Horizon, and also of LittleSG, was to facilitate the distribution of obscene or sexually themed films of Singaporeans filmed in Singapore.

"Many of these films were filmed with hidden cameras that were placed in offices, bathrooms, changing rooms of popular fashion outlets such as Cotton On and bathroom showers of private homes," said Deputy Public Prosecutor Tang Shangjun.

"These films captured unsuspecting women and girls, including schoolgirls in uniform, in various states of undress, relieving themselves in the toilet and/or taking showers," he said.

Seeking a jail term of at least six months, he said that there was actual passing of films, that the offence was planned and premeditated, that repeated circulation would cause unimaginable shame to victims, and that Chew's offending behaviour was hard to detect.

He said significant public disquiet had been caused because of the filming and circulation of these films. "Toilets and changing rooms are places where users expect the utmost privacy,'' he said.

District Judge Prem Raj will sentence Chew on Oct 5.

Chew could be fined not less than $2,000 per film, up to a maximum of $80,000, or jailed for up to two years, or both.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 22, 2017, with the headline 'He had 280 obscene films for distribution'. Print Edition | Subscribe