SINGAPORE - A former muay thai instructor who was sentenced to seven years and four months' jail and four strokes of the cane for sexually assaulting a woman while massaging her thigh lost his appeal on Friday (Sept 18).
Tan Wai Luen, 31, who had appealed against his conviction and sentence on a charge of sexual assault by penetration, was granted a three-week deferment to settle his personal affairs before starting his jail term.
In January, a district judge found him guilty of sexually violating the 33-year-old woman who attended a free trial class at his gym on Oct 1, 2016.
The woman testified that after the class, Tan offered her a free Thai massage, which she accepted. During the massage, he inserted his finger into her, she said.
She said he stopped after she shouted at him but continued with the massage for about 10 to 15 minutes.
The next day, the woman told the co-founder of the gym about her ordeal and the latter lodged a police report.
On Friday, in dismissing Tan's appeal, High Court judge See Kee Oon noted that Tan gave three "distinctly inconsistent" defences in court and was not a credible witness.
Initially, during his trial, Tan claimed that he could have accidentally violated the woman.
His lawyer suggested that the penetration may have been an "accident" because the woman's skin was slippery and oily due to sweat from the exercise and the use of olive oil during the massage.
Later, in the trial, Tan changed his story, saying that he could not have touched her genital area at all as he did not go near her inner thigh during the massage.
At his appeal hearing on Monday, Tan took a third position, arguing that it was physically impossible for him to have violated the woman in the way she described because she was wearing underwear and lying face down covered by a towel.
Justice See also noted that Tan initially denied performing any massage on the victim when he was questioned by the co-founder of the gym and the police.
"These contemporaneous reactions were simply not consistent with his pleas of innocence," said the judge. He added that the various explanations that Tan provided for lying were "dubious and implausible".
Justice See also rejected Tan's arguments that the woman's account was inconsistent and implausible.
Among other things, the woman explained that she allowed Tan to continue with the massage even after he violated her because she was concerned that, given her state of undress, he might overpower her and escalate his acts should she leave abruptly.
Justice See said although Tan suggested that the woman was falsely accusing him for some ulterior purpose, this was not borne out by objective evidence; Tan himself conceded that he could not think of any reason for why she would falsely implicate him.
As for Tan's sentence, Justice See said it was not manifestly excessive and fell within the sentencing framework for sexual assault cases.