Jail for burglar-rapist cut to 19 years after appeal

SINGAPORE - A burglar-rapist, who forced himself on a 27-year-old woman after ransacking her home, had two years shaved off his 21-year jail sentence on Monday (July 30).

The three-judge Court of Appeal said Muhammad Sutarno Nasir, 30, should be given some sentencing discount for his guilty plea, which spared the victim the trauma of having to testify in court.

Muhammad Sutarno pleaded guilty in November last year to one count each of aggravated rape, housebreaking by night and possession of a straw of heroin.

The High Court imposed an overall sentence of 21 years' jail and 18 strokes of the cane, after ordering the sentences for each charge to run consecutively.

On Monday, Muhammad Sutarno, who was not represented by a lawyer, appealed to the apex court for a lighter sentence. In particular, he asked for the individual sentences to run concurrently instead.

His complaint that his sentence was too heavy drew a retort from Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, who said: "You should have thought of that when you destroyed this woman's life."

Deputy Public Prosecutor Charlene Tay Chia argued that Muhammad Sutarno should not be given any sentencing discount for pleading guilty, given the "grave and heinous nature" of the rape and that there was overwhelming evidence against him.

His DNA was found in the victim's body, while her DNA was found on his genitals.

But the Chief Justice said that even if the evidence was overwhelming, Muhammad Sutarno should be given some credit for sparing the victim from reliving her ordeal.

The court lowered the individual jail term for the rape charge from 16 years to 14 years.

However, the court denied Muhammad Sutarno's request for concurrent sentences, referring to a recent judgment, in which the Chief Justice ruled that an offender should generally be given consecutive jail terms for unrelated offences committed on separate occasions.

On July 24, 2016, Muhammad Sutarno was looking for places to burgle at about 5am when he saw the open window of a second-storey walk-up unit.

He climbed a pole that was connected to the ground, grabbed hold of the laundry pole holders and lifted himself through the window.

After ransacking the living room, he went into a bedroom where he saw the victim sleeping on a mattress and decided to rape her.

He tried to strangle the victim and punched her repeatedly in the face when she shouted and struggled.

Fearing for her life, the woman, who lived with her 75-year-old grandmother, pretended to pass out while he raped her.

After the attack, Muhammad Sutarno took the women's handbags and left through the door.

The victim sought help via Facebook, posting several pleas on her Facebook wall. A friend saw her posts and called the police.

Muhammad Sutarno, who has past convictions for drug offences and misappropriation of property, was arrested more than four hours after the attack.

The assault resulted in lesions in the woman's brain, indicating acute bleeding. She was also diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

She sleeps with the light on and wakes up often to check for intruders. She keeps a pair of scissors beside her to defend herself. She also blames herself for moving into a separate bedroom from her grandmother.

Her fiance broke up with her because of the rape, causing her to struggle with feelings of unworthiness, the court heard.