Rape lie: Woman gets detention order

A woman's rape claim last year sparked a police probe which lasted about seven hours before she admitted she had lied to cover up the fact that she had casual sex.

Esther Chua, 30, was sentenced to a detention order of two weeks to be served in jail, which means that she will not have a criminal record, despite spending time behind bars.

In deciding on the detention order, District Judge Low Wee Ping said in his judgment grounds issued last week that the difference between imprisonment and a detention order is "significant".

Chua, who had a boyfriend at the time, said she had lied to cover up the casual sex she had with someone she met just hours earlier.

She had told police last May that six men were involved in the incident, which allegedly took place at about 4am on May 10, behind an HDB lift lobby in Telok Blangah Crescent.

The tale led police to check closed-circuit television camera footage and screen phone records.

Chua was also interviewed by officers of the Serious Sexual Crime Branch, where her fake story about one man forcing sex on her while five others in the same gang kept a lookout unravelled, within seven hours of her initial report.

Chua explained that she had made up the story to cover up for the consensual sex she had with a person named "Mackie".

She said she had met Mackie and drank alcohol with him prior to the alleged incident. While walking towards her block, she ran into a group of six men.

Chua admitted that she and Mackie ignored the group and went to the back alley near the HDB block, where they had sex.

She said she was worried that she might have been impregnated, and would have difficulty explaining it to her boyfriend, so she decided to come up with the fake story.

At issue before Judge Low was the kind of sentence Chua, who was described as having an unnamed mental condition, should get.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Muhammad Zulhafni asked for a short jail term.

Her lawyer Raphael Louis urged the court to impose a maximum two-week detention order instead.

This would mean that Chua would not have a criminal record, thus helping with her "redemption", Mr Louis said.

"It's already hard for her to get a job because of her mental condition and if she has a criminal record, Your Honour, it'll be really difficult for her to move on with her life."

Mr Louis said Chua did not lie out of malice, and added that she was not "on a vendetta, going after somebody and lying about it".

"She met this guy on the same day. She was intoxicated. Her judgment was impaired. She thought she was raped," the lawyer said.

Judge Low accepted that "significantly, the accused did not commit this offence out of malice".

"This court was persuaded by the accused's several mitigating factors. The accused was a divorcee and had to give up custody of her only child. According to Mr Raphael Louis, the accused 'faces the guilt of not providing, or giving, her best as a mother'."

The judge said the court also appreciated that Chua had taken positive steps to get help, and that psychiatrists and professionals at the Institute of Mental Health confirmed she was "on the right path".

The prosecution is appealing against the two-week detention order.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 11, 2017, with the headline Rape lie: Woman gets detention order. Subscribe