A judge presiding over a widely reported rape trial yesterday took the unusual step of criticising netizens for comments they made about a rape victim which have caused her distress.
Judicial Commissioner Aedit Abdullah said he was made aware of "disrespectful" online comments made about a then 22-year-old intern who was raped after partying at nightspot Zouk on July 24, 2014.
When the case was first reported in March, disparaging online comments were made about the woman for, among other things, drinking with a man at the club. However, some netizens expressed concern over the victim-blaming.
Yesterday, the judicial commissioner did not specify the nature of the comments he was referring to, which he said should be "strongly discouraged" in this and other cases.
He said that such comments were "disrespectful" of the court process and the victims, and would discourage other victims from coming forward.
It was also "not helpful" for people to pass comments on accused people, he said, adding that it should be left to the justice system to determine whether they are guilty or not.
Those who make such comments have to reflect... that that kind of behaviour would discourage victims of offences from coming forward. Their comments serve no greater purpose than allowing themselves to mouth off and play up their prejudices... There is a real impact on people in the court process.
JUDICIAL COMMISSIONER AEDIT ABDULLAH
Noting that the anonymity enabled by the Internet has emboldened people to make comments they would not make in person, he said: "Those who make such comments have to reflect... that that kind of behaviour would discourage victims of offences from coming forward. Their comments serve no greater purpose than allowing themselves to mouth off and play up their prejudices."
"There is a real impact on people in the court process," he said, adding that he was leaving it to the relevant authorities to determine whether action can and should be taken.
He made the remarks following sentencing arguments in the case of Ong Soon Heng, 40, who was convicted in July of raping the woman, who was drunk after a party. Prosecutors sought at least 14 years in jail and 12 strokes of the cane.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Sellakumaran argued that Ong took advantage of the woman's vulnerable condition, and was fully aware that she was intoxicated.
"The victim's capacity not to consent was not merely compromised but completely absent," said the DPP.
The DPP also argued that Ong abused the woman's trust in him. The court heard that during her three-month internship, she became good friends with Ong and sought his advice on work- related issues.
However, defence counsel Sunil Sudheesan asked for 10 years in jail and six strokes of the cane. He accepted that a victim may be vulnerable owing to inebriation, but argued that it should have less impact on the sentence in this case.
The case has been adjourned for further arguments.