Shanmugam: No free passes for culprits even if they are uni students

There are no "free passes" for perpetrators of sexual misconduct, even if they are university students, said Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam.

In Parliament yesterday, he said the police take a balanced approach towards cases, noting: "Some have been prosecuted depending on the facts, others have been given a second chance, and there are no 'free passes' to university students, or anyone else."

He also explained how the police and Attorney-General's Chambers approach cases, pointing out situations where there is no leniency and where there may be.

Mr Shanmugam was responding to Ms Lee Bee Wah (Nee Soon GRC) and Non-Constituency MP Leon Perera, who asked, among other things, about the outcomes of the reports made to the police on campus sexual misconduct and the factors considered in the decisions.

The issue came under the spotlight following criticism of the way the National University of Singapore (NUS) and the police handled a case in which undergraduate Monica Baey, 23, was filmed in the shower at Eusoff Hall by fellow student Nicholas Lim, also 23.

Mr Shanmugam said that in the past three academic years, starting from 2015/16, the six autonomous universities received 56 reports of sexual misconduct by students.

Police reports were made by the victims in 37 cases; of these, there was insufficient evidence to make out offences in two, and investigations are ongoing in another four.

 
 
 
 

Of the remaining 31 police cases, 16 were prosecuted in court; conditional warnings were given in another 13 cases, meaning that if the offender commits another crime during a stipulated period, he will be charged with both the later and earlier offences; and stern warnings given in the last two.

One man had been given a conditional warning for voyeurism committed in 2015, but reoffended in 2017. He was taken to court for both offences, sentenced to eight months in jail and fined $2,000, Mr Shanmugam said.

The minister said protection of the victim was a vital component of the process, noting: "The criminal legal framework must deal with the offender in a way that ensures the specific victim's safety, deal with the specific offender, and deter other would-be offenders."

He said that when a woman's privacy is violated, follow-up actions must ensure she is treated with dignity and respect, with her concerns addressed and support given to her.

He also said no leniency would be shown in certain cases, such as if the offender masked his face, covered closed-circuit TV cameras or used other means to evade detection.

Mr Shanmugam emphasised that a conditional warning does bear weight. On the NUS case involving Mr Lim, he said: "I should point out that Mr Lim is on thin ice, with his conditional warning... A conditional warning has been an effective deterrent for perpetrators who have had good propensity to reform."

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 07, 2019, with the headline 'Shanmugam: No free passes for culprits even if they are uni students'. Print Edition | Subscribe