Lawyer accused of molestation says he gave incriminating statement due to 'guarantee' of no court proceedings if he did so

SINGAPORE - A lawyer, who used to work for top firm Drew & Napier, is accused of molesting his then colleague once and insulting the woman's modesty on three separate occasions by acts such as snapping pictures of her underwear.

He faces four charges in all and allegedly committed these offences at the Ocean Financial Centre in Collyer Quay in April and October 2017.

He cannot be named owing to a gag order to protect the woman's identity.

On the second day of the trial on Tuesday (Nov 12), the court heard that the lawyer, who is now working for another firm, gave a statement in November 2017 to investigation officer (IO) Thanabalan Kothandapani in which he admitted his alleged offences.

This incriminating statement could potentially be submitted to the court as evidence against him.

He is now contesting its admissibility, stating that the IO had offered to close the case if he agreed to conditions including admitting the offences and apologising to the parties involved.

When queried by District Judge Samuel Chua on Tuesday, the man said: "First, there was a guarantee that by doing so, there would be no court proceedings.

"Second, to my mind, there was something like a settlement negotiation. People do apologise and admit to things which they didn't do in order to procure an amicable closure to matters."

The judge also asked the lawyer why he saw the need to give an apology to exculpate himself.

 
 
 
 

He replied: "(It's because) of the offer that the IO had given me - that the matter would not go to the AGC (Attorney-General's Chambers) if I did all these things.

"I simply wanted the matter to be closed so I could live my life."

He also said he wanted to avoid the "whole process" of going on trial, adding that if he faced charges, "the matter would have appeared in major news outlets", which would have affected his mother's health.

The man, who is represented by defence lawyer Tan Hee Joek, did not give the details about his mother's condition on Tuesday in court.

According to court documents, he allegedly pressed his thigh against his then colleague's upper arm and used his mobile phone to snap pictures of the woman's underwear on Oct 11, 2017.

He is also accused of snapping pictures of her chest and undergarments on two occasions in April that year. 

The man is now out on bail of $15,000 and his pre-trial conference will be held on Nov 26.

In a statement, Drew & Napier said that it has a “strict zero-tolerance policy” towards misconduct of any nature. 

Its spokesman  said: “Our colleagues work hard to maintain a supportive and respectful work environment with an open-door policy. We are fully committed to ensuring that every single member of our firm feels safe, and that reported cases of misconduct, sexual or otherwise, are responded to swiftly. 

“Appropriate steps were taken when the allegations came to light. As the matter is before the courts, we cannot comment further at this time.”

If convicted of insulting the woman's modesty, the man can be jailed for up to a year and fined for each charge.

Offenders convicted of molestation can be jailed for up to two years and fined or caned.