Jail for man who molested victims by caressing their feet under false pretences

Tan Boon Hwee was sentenced to two weeks and five days' jail after he pleaded guilty to two molestation charges. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

SINGAPORE - A man who gets sexually aroused by feet molested a teenager in March 2019 by touching her soles and toes - just two months after he was fined $8,000 for similar offences.

In an unrelated incident, Tan Boon Hwee molested another woman in July 2017 by caressing her feet.

He duped the pair into showing him their feet by claiming that he was helping out at non-profit organisations, including one called "Barefoot Walking Society". He would then touch the women's feet while snapping their pictures.

An online check by The Straits Times indicates no such society exists, but there is a Society for Barefoot Living, which promotes the benefits of going barefoot.

On Wednesday (April 6), the 32-year-old Singaporean was sentenced to two weeks and five days' jail after he pleaded guilty to two molestation charges.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Chong Kee En said: "Although the accused's outrages of modesty are less intrusive because it involves feet and not private parts, it is anything but harmless.

"It disrespects women's autonomy over all parts of their bodies, and their right not to have any part of themselves sexually intruded upon without their consent."

Noting that Tan's acts cannot be condoned because it violates his victims' knowing consent, DPP Chong added: "The accused's deception as 'charity' preys on his victims' kindness or generosity... It makes a mockery of those involved in legitimate charitable activities."

The court heard that Tan met his first victim, a 28-year-old woman, via online dating app Tinder.

They went to MacRitchie Reservoir on July 16, 2017 and were sitting on a bench in the late afternoon when he lied to her by claiming to be part of a charity known as the Barefoot Walking Society. Tan then asked the woman if he could snap pictures of her feet.

DPP Chong said: "When (she) probed him for details of this charity, the accused said that it was a 'low-key' organisation. He insisted it was genuine, showing her photos of other women and their feet he had taken."

He then caressed the woman's soles and rubbed her toes while snapping some pictures. Feeling "uncomfortable and disgusted", she told Tan to stop,

He then directed intimate questions at the woman, who indicated that she merely saw him as a friend and went home.

Despite this, Tan repeatedly messaged her. He also threatened the woman after she asked for the photos he had taken earlier.

The woman felt traumatised as the outing with Tan was her first Tinder date and it had ended badly.

In 2019, she alerted the police when she realised she was one of Tan's victims after local media reported on his conviction for molesting other victims.

Tan was fined $8,000 for his earlier offences on Jan 7 that year, but he returned to his old ways two months later when he approached an 18-year-old woman who was working in a shop.

This time, he pretended to be from the People's Association and claimed to be conducting an activity where "they would write quotes on the soles of feet and take photos of them to form a collage".

After telling her the quotes and pictures were meant to "inspire" people, Tan asked her if she wanted to take part in the "movement". When she agreed, he touched her feet while snapping some pictures.

DPP Chong said: "(The teenager) felt very uncomfortable when the accused was handling her feet. She decided to Google his name, and found out about his 2019 conviction, whereupon she lodged a police report."

For each count of molestation, an offender can be jailed for up to two years and fined or caned.

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