High Court dismisses appeal by SMU student who molested woman in study room

Lee Yan Ru was convicted last year by a district court for molesting the victim by rubbing himself against her in a study room. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

SINGAPORE - A Singapore Management University (SMU) student, who was sentenced to 10 months' jail and ordered to be given three strokes of the cane for molesting a woman on campus, lost his appeal against conviction and sentence on Friday (May 20).

Lee Yan Ru, 25, was convicted last year by a district court for molesting the victim by rubbing himself against her in a study room, after the two met for a study session at about 1am on Jan 8, 2019.

On Friday, High Court judge Chua Lee Ming dismissed Lee’s appeal and upheld the lower court’s decision on conviction, citing the fact that the appellant had admitted in his statement to the police that he was “purely thinking with (his) private part”.

Justice Chua rejected defence arguments that Lee believed that the victim had consented to him rubbing against her because there was "growing intimacy" between them as the night progressed.

The judge said the woman’s reaction to Lee’s earlier advances showed that she did not consent. 

Among other things, the woman dodged Lee’s kisses and prised his fingers off when he groped her.

“I cannot see how the appellant could possibly have believed the complainant consented to him rubbing (himself against her),” said the judge.

Justice Chua said the truth was what Lee had admitted in his police statement – that he had acted in “a moment of lust” and that he was “purely thinking with (his) private part”.

The judge also dismissed defence arguments that a sentence of six months' jail, without caning, was sufficient to teach Lee a lesson.

Justice Chua granted a request by Lee, who is out on bail, to start serving his sentence in a week's time so that he can settle his personal matters.

Lee's lawyer, Mr Thong Chee Kun, told the court that Lee has been suspended from school.

The victim, who was then studying at another university, cannot be named due to a gag order to protect her identity. She was 20 years old when Lee molested her.

During Lee’s trial, the district court heard that the woman got to know Lee on Instagram around December 2018, and that they had mutual friends.

On Jan 8, 2019, she met Lee at SMU’s School of Economics and Social Sciences at about 1am and he led her to a study room.

The woman testified that while they were in the room, Lee placed his foot on her thigh several times and she kept pushing it away.

At about 4am, Lee groped her and she prised his fingers off, she said.

Later, after noticing  that Lee was asleep, she decided to take a nap on the other side of the room.

She said she was subsequently awoken by a weight on her body and saw Lee kneeling over her.

When she told him to get off, her, he told her to “wait”, she testified.

After being molested, she decided to leave, with Lee following behind.

She then called the police from the security gantry.

Correction note: An earlier version of this article stated that High Court judge Chua Lee Ming said Lee Yan Ru was "clearly thinking with his private parts at the time". This was, however, not a finding made by the judge, but was a quote from Lee's own admission in his statement to the police. This has been corrected. We are sorry for the error.

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