Prison officer found guilty of molesting male inmate

Father of three children groped 20-year-old, whose distress was noticed by another officer

A sergeant with the Singapore Prison Service was yesterday found guilty of nine charges of molesting a male inmate in Admiralty West jail.

Mohamed Faris Osman, 47, touched the 20-year-old inmate from China inappropriately on seven different occasions between July and October last year. He even grabbed the inmate's buttocks and groped his private parts.

Twice, when he was rebuked, the married prison officer asked the inmate: "Officer sayang (love) you, why you no sayang officer?" But the inmate - who cannot be named to protect his identity - put up with the sexual abuse because he was afraid his jail term would get increased.

It was only when another prison officer noticed that the inmate was depressed and distressed that the matter came to light. The prison superintendent immediately transferred him to another housing unit.

After a nine-day trial, Faris, who was out on bail of $10,000 put up by his wife, faces up to two years in jail and a fine for each charge of using criminal force to outrage the inmate's modesty.

The father of three children is expected to be sentenced by District Judge May Lucia Mesenas at a later date. The case will be mentioned again on July 8.

Faris was deployed as a logistics officer at the prison, where the inmate, who is engaged to get married in China, was serving a jail term from April to November last year.

The inmate was part of a team of four to five prisoners tasked to do maintenance and cleaning work at the prison. Faris, who was employed by the prison service for 27 years, was the only guard who supervised them every day.

The victim was first molested in July. He was sweeping the floor when Faris slid his hand down his arm. The inmate told him: "I no like you do that."

The next month, Faris' abuse escalated. One day, he poked the inmate's buttocks with his walkie-talkie antenna, and on another occasion, grabbed his buttocks. Two days later, he rubbed his buttocks.

In September, when Faris again poked the inmate with his walkie-talkie antenna, he reported sick for two days to avoid seeing the sergeant. Later that month, the court heard, Faris said "I love you" to the inmate before he touched his private parts twice. The officer then asked the inmate: "Why you no sayang officer?" The inmate replied: "If you really sayang me, you will not do that."

On the morning of Oct 16, Faris patted the inmate's buttock when he bent forward to pick up a box. More incidents followed that day until the inmate refused to work. He was escorted back to his housing unit by the sergeant, who handed him over to a rehabilitation officer.

Noticing that he looked distressed and tearful during a strip search, the officer asked the inmate what happened and was told of Faris' abuse. He also requested to see the prison superintendent.

When he was interviewed by a prison investigator, the inmate passed him a letter addressed to the superintendent, detailing some of Faris' abuse. He said he had prepared it as "evidence", for when he could no longer tolerate the abuse.

The inmate said he did not report the abuse earlier because he did not want to get into trouble or be mocked by other inmates. He added that he had also heard of other inmates being sexually harassed.

In his defence, the prison guard denied touching the inmate except on two occasions. Once, he lightly patted the inmate's hip while saying "faster boy". On another occasion, he said he accidentally touched the inmate's private parts while he was casually swinging his arm.

However, Judge Mesenas said the inmate's evidence during the trial was "unusually convincing", while Faris was an "untruthful witness".

The Singapore Prison Service, in a statement yesterday, said it takes a serious view of any acts of misconduct by its officers. "When the allegations were made against Faris, SPS immediately reported the incident to the police, and now that he has been convicted, civil service disciplinary proceedings will commence against him, with a view towards his dismissal," it added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 25, 2016, with the headline 'Prison officer found guilty of molesting male inmate'. Print Edition | Subscribe