NUS Peeping Tom given conditional warning due to high likelihood of rehabilitation: Police

Police said that prosecution, with a possible jail sentence, will likely ruin the entire future of the NUS student involved in the sexual misconduct case.
Police said that prosecution, with a possible jail sentence, will likely ruin the entire future of the NUS student involved in the sexual misconduct case.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE – The police have explained their decision to give a 23-year-old male undergraduate from the National University of Singapore (NUS) a conditional warning for trespassing and filming a female student in the shower without her consent. 

Two online petitions had called on the university and the police to take tougher action against the undergraduate after the female student,  Ms Monica Baey, a third-year NUS communications and new media undergraduate, posted her unhappiness with the punishment on her Instagram account last Thursday and Friday.

In a statement on Tuesday (April 23), the police said the accused in this case was assessed to have a “high likelihood of rehabilitation, and was remorseful”. 

“There were also additional factors relating to his conduct which were relevant, such as the absence of other obscene materials in any of his devices,” the police said.

“A prosecution, with a possible jail sentence, will likely ruin his entire future, with a permanent criminal record.” 

The police, considering these factors, gave him a conditional warning. This means that if he commits any other criminal offence within 12 months, he can be prosecuted for the current offence and the subsequent offence. He will then likely face a jail sentence. 

Ms Baey had identified the undergraduate who filmed her as Nicholas Lim, a chemical engineering student. He has resigned from insurer Great Eastern, where he had been working as a  financial representative since last August, after the company suspended him.

In the statement, the police said allegations that the man was not prosecuted because he has influential parents are untrue. It said that factors such as family background are  irrelevant in police investigations.

The police and the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) did not consider his parents’ background, the statement said, adding: “It is unfortunate that such untruths have been put out.”

 
 
 
 

The police said the parents have agreed to the police disclosing their occupations. The father is a driver in the public transport sector and the mother is a housewife. 

Ms Baey posted on her Instagram account last Thursday and Friday that she had noticed an iPhone being held underneath the door after she finished showering at student residence Eusoff Hall  on Nov 25 last year. 

According to Ms Baey, the university had asked the man to write an apology letter to her and undergo mandatory counselling. He was also banned from entering Eusoff Hall and suspended from school for a semester. The 23-year-old expressed her frustration that the university had not taken a tougher stance.

On Monday, Education Minister Ong Ye Kung said the punishment penalties meted out by NUS were "manifestly inadequate" and that the university needed to take a tough stand when it comes to offences that affect the safety of students on campus. The university has said it will be reviewing its discipline and sentencing framework.

In the statement, the police said they consider a number of factors in deciding whether to recommend prosecution for a criminal offence, including the age of the accused, the likelihood of reoffending or rehabilitation, the extent of remorse shown and whether there are aggravating factors like the circulation of the offending images. 

“Where other relevant factors are involved, for example, a prior criminal record, premeditation to evade detection, there will often be a prosecution,” they said. 

The police said they noted the public discussions surrounding the NUS case and that there are two factors, which are both related yet separate. 

“The first relates to rules to ensure that premises like NUS provide a safe environment, and the second relates to criminal prosecution,” they said, adding that they understand NUS is reviewing its rules on how to treat such conduct. 

On the second issue, they said that both the police and the AGC note public concerns on ensuring that Singapore laws and enforcement provide sufficient protection for potential victims and sufficient deterrence against would-be offenders. 

“That is the approach that police and AGC take,” they said. 

“Our criminal justice system seeks to temper punishment and deterrence, with giving offenders a second chance to reform, based on assessment of the relevant factors,” they added. 

Police said the approach they took in the NUS case was consistent with what they have done in other similar cases, where conditional warnings were given.

They added that they are also aware of comparisons being made between the case and a 2015 case involving a 23-year-old man who was sentenced to 10 weeks’ imprisonment for filming a woman showering at Republic Polytechnic (RP). 

“The accused in the RP case had committed multiple criminal trespass offences, taken deliberate action to avoid detection by covering up the CCTVs in the vicinity and covering his face with a towel, and did not own up voluntarily but was arrested following police investigations to track him down,” the statement said. 

It added: "The facts in that case are quite different.” 

Here is the full police statement:

There have been public discussions regarding the 12-month conditional warning given to a 23-year-old male National University of Singapore (NUS) undergraduate who had committed criminal trespass and insulted the modesty of a female undergraduate at the NUS.

There are two factors (which are both inter-related and yet separate): the first relates to rules to ensure that premises like NUS provide a safe environment, and the second relates to criminal prosecution.

On the first, Police understand that NUS is reviewing its rules, on how such conduct is to be treated.

On the second issue: Police and AGC understand public concerns, on ensuring that our laws and enforcement provide sufficient protection for potential victims, and sufficient deterrence against would-be offenders. That is the approach that Police and AGC take.

In deciding whether to recommend prosecution for a criminal offence, a number of factors are considered by Police in each case, including the age of the accused, the likelihood of reoffending/rehabilitation, the extent of remorse shown, whether there are aggravating factors (for example, like circulation of the offending images).

In this case, the accused was assessed to have a high likelihood of rehabilitation, and was remorseful. There were also additional factors relating to his conduct which were relevant, such as the absence of other obscene materials in any of his devices. A prosecution, with a possible jail sentence, will, likely ruin his entire future, with a permanent criminal record.

Taking into account these factors, he was given a conditional warning, which means that if he commits any other criminal offence within 12 months, he will be liable to be prosecuted for both this current offence and the subsequent other offence. He will then likely face a jail sentence.

Our criminal justice system seeks to temper punishment and deterrence, with giving offenders a second chance to reform, based on assessment of the relevant factors.

The approach in this case is consistent with the approach taken in other cases. There have been a number of similar cases, where such conditional warnings have been given.

Where other relevant factors are involved, for example, a prior criminal record, premeditation to evade detection, there will often be a prosecution. 

Allegations that the man was not prosecuted because he has influential parents are untrue - the Police and AGC did not consider his parents' background. Such factors are irrelevant considerations. It is unfortunate that such untruths have been put out. The man’s parents have agreed for it to be disclosed that his father is a driver in the public transport sector and his mother is a housewife.

The Police are also aware of comparisons being made between this case and a 2015 case involving a 23-year-old man who was charged and sentenced to 10 weeks’ imprisonment for filming a woman showering at Republic Polytechnic (RP).

The accused in the RP case had committed multiple criminal trespass offences, taken deliberate action to avoid detection by covering up the CCTVs in the vicinity and covering his face with a towel, and did not own up voluntarily but was arrested following Police investigations to track him down.

He was a former student of RP and had committed the offences over a period of four months. As such, the Police, in consultation with the AGC, prosecuted him in court. The facts in that case are quite different.