Former Uber driver gets probation for molesting passenger, but sentence stayed as prosecution seeks jail term

SINGAPORE - A former Uber driver who stroked a 25-year-old passenger on the thigh was given 18 months' probation on Monday (Sept 4).

Ng Chee Hong, 27, pleaded guilty in January to molesting the woman in the car at Bukit Panjang MRT station on Sept 25, 2016.

The prosecution successfully sought a stay of the sentence as it is considering an appeal.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Gail Wong said that the victim used the Uber Pool application to book a ride that evening. She was assigned Ng's car, a Honda Vezel, and boarded it near Old Choa Chu Kang Road.

As directed by Ng, she sat in the front passenger seat as there was another passenger to pick up.

After Ng picked up a male passenger and dropped him off, Ng continued driving to the victim's intended destination, Bukit Panjang MRT station, in Upper Bukit Timah Road.

Upon arrival at Bukit Panjang MRT station, the victim was unbuckling her seat belt to alight when she felt contact on her right thigh.

She turned her head and saw the fingers of Ng's left hand stroking her right thigh.

She felt outraged but was unsure what to do.

She quickly alighted and walked towards the MRT station and subsequently lodged a police report.

DPP Wong said Ng touched the victim as he had found her to be pretty.

Seeking a jail term of at least eight weeks, she said there was an over-riding public interest to ensure that commuters had a safe ride home.

She added that there was a need for general deterrence to send a strong signal to other public transport providers not to have any designs on their customers.

"There is growing prevalence in the use of online ride-booking apps and ride-sharing apps like Uber and Grab. The drivers of these vehicles should be treated no differently from taxi drivers, who similarly provide a public transport service," she said.

Although Ng was diagnosed with frotteurism, in which a person has recurrent and intense urges to touch or rub a non-consenting person, the prosecutor said it does not affect his self-control.

Ng's lawyer Che Wei Chin urged District Judge Low Wee Ping to grant his client probation after a probation officer recommended it. He said probation would be more helpful for Ng in his rehabilitation.

Ng's parents are bonded for $5,000 each to ensure his good behaviour. Among other things, Ng has to remain indoors between 10pm and 6am and continue with his psychiatric and psychological treatment at the Institute of Mental Health.

The maximum penalty for outrage of modesty is two years' jail, a fine, caning, or any combined punishment.