AT THE COURTS

Man acquitted of molesting teenager during hypnotherapy

A man accused of molesting a 17-year-old girl during a hypnotherapy session has been acquitted following a trial.

On Monday, District Judge John Ng granted Mr Sreekamal Asante Parambil Kalesan, now 46, a discharge amounting to an acquittal.

This means Mr Sreekamal, represented by lawyer Kalidass Murugaiyan from Kalidass Law Corporation, cannot be charged again with the same offence.

He was working as a hypnotherapist at the time of the purported offence on April 9, 2017, and was accused of kissing the girl's face.

In the brief written grounds of the verdict which The Straits Times obtained yesterday, Judge Ng noted there were no witnesses to the purported acts of molestation.

"To find an accused guilty in such a situation where the court has to decide which version to choose between the testimonies of the accused and the alleged victim, the law requires that the testimony of the victim must be reliable and that there are no reasonable doubts to the acceptance of that oral testimony as truthful."

The judge went on to say that the outcome of the case depended on the assessment of the credibility of the complainant and Mr Sreekamal. "The burden is not on the defence to prove the innocence of the accused.

"As long as the defence is able to raise a reasonable doubt on the charge, the accused will be entitled to an acquittal."

Judge Ng said it was unsafe to convict Mr Sreekamal, noting that the girl had difficulty recalling what had happened when she was hypnotised during the session.

"The complainant agreed with the defence counsel that during hypnosis, she was in a state between being conscious and unconscious which affected her memory and what she was able to recollect in the course of the hypnotism."

The issue of whether the girl was hypnotised or not at the time was also not easy to determine, Judge Ng noted, as there was no objective evidence adduced in the trial which could prove whether she was in a state of hypnosis.

The judge also noted that there were several inconsistencies when the girl testified in court.

For instance, she had initially said that her eyes were open but later stated that they were closed.

Judge Ng said: "These unsatisfactory aspects of the evidence of the complainant made it unsafe to convict the accused on the charge.

"It is also equally important to bear in mind that there were no material inconsistencies in the evidence of the accused and there was nothing in evidence which called into question his credibility."

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

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 25, 2021, with the headline 'Man acquitted of molesting teenager during hypnotherapy'. Subscribe