Nursing home worker cleared of molesting patient

A nursing home employee was acquitted yesterday of molesting a 55-year-old patient who had difficulty moving and had to use adult diapers, in a case that turned on the testimony of a nurse who said she saw the man straddling the victim.

In clearing the 34-year-old of a molestation charge, the High Court said the nurse's testimony alone was not strong enough to prove the prosecution's case against the accused beyond a reasonable doubt.

"Abuse, especially sexual abuse, of a vulnerable person in a care facility, is heinous, and would call for heavy punishment... But the fact that a person may be accused of such a crime does not mean that he committed it," said Justice Aedit Abdullah.

The judge said he saw no reason to doubt that the nurse was honest, but her viewing of the incident was not definitive and she could have been mistaken about what she saw.

After he was cleared, the accused, who has been on bail after being in custody for two months, told reporters through his appointed lawyer Lau Wen Jin, that the case has affected his life as he was unable to work for two years.

In May, the man was sentenced to 22 months' jail and three strokes of the cane after he was found guilty following a 14-day trial. But he appealed, maintaining he did not molest the patient. The parties cannot be named to protect her identity.

The key witness was a nurse, who was on her rounds on Nov 26, 2016. She said she saw the man kneeling on the bed on top of the patient, who was lying on her back. She saw half his face and recognised his uniform.

The nurse testified that the man's trousers were pulled down to thigh level and the patient's pants lowered. Part of her diaper was removed and the man's groin was touching hers. After five seconds, the nurse left and told a male nurse to check the room. He saw only the accused looking at his cellphone.

The accused argued that the nurse was mistaken about what she saw as she had only a quick look. He said he was in the room to repair the TV set of another resident.

He saw the alleged victim's head pressed against her bed's side rail and adjusted her position, intending to wedge a pillow between her head and the railing, he said. He put his knee between the railing's bars, and reached for a pillow on the far side of the bed. He bent over her, but said no part of his body touched hers.

The alleged victim was assessed to be unfit to testify in court. As a result of multiple strokes, she is confused most of the time and is unable to make rational decisions.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 24, 2018, with the headline 'Nursing home worker cleared of molesting patient'. Print Edition | Subscribe