SINGAPORE (THE NEW PAPER) - A university student who molested a woman was given probation on Wednesday (Sept 25) after the judge rejected the prosecution's call for a custodial sentence.
Citing her reasons, District Judge Jasvender Kaur described Terence Siow Kai Yuan's offences as "minor intrusions" several times.
She also noted that the probation report had found Siow suitable for probation as his academic results show he has the "potential to excel in life".
Siow, 23, was given 21 months of supervised probation after pleading guilty to one charge of outraging the modesty of a 28-year-old woman. Two similar charges were taken into consideration.
The National University of Singapore (NUS) student was on a train on the North East Line heading towards Punggol station at about 11.30pm on Sept 12 last year when he noticed a woman with "very long legs" in a pair of shorts.
He sat next to her and felt the urge to touch her, the court heard.
When he used his left hand to touch the outside of her right thigh, she shifted away from him and crossed her legs.
When Siow touched her right thigh again, she moved to another seat, and later alighted at Serangoon station.
But Siow followed her as he felt the urge to touch her again. As she was on an escalator, he stood behind her and used his finger to touch her buttocks over her shorts.
The woman turned around and shouted at him as he walked quickly towards the control station. She told a station officer she had been molested and pointed to Siow as he was leaving the station.
The woman made a police report about 1½ hours later.
The New Paper previously reported that the police arrested a suspect in Hougang Avenue 5 three days later.
After Siow's conviction in a previous hearing, the court called for a probation suitability report.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Benedict Chan on Wednesday said the prosecution objected to probation for Siow and urged the court to jail him for six weeks instead.
He noted that Siow had admitted in the probation report to committing similar acts since he enrolled in NUS in 2016.
DPP Chan said it was troubling that Siow was unable to recall the number of times he had committed such acts.
Calling them a "deep-seated habit", he added: "The accused knew it was wrong but was emboldened after previous successes. He only sought help after facing the university's Board of Discipline."
DPP Chan added that Siow was "normal in every sense" and did not suffer from any disorder.
But Judge Kaur questioned the prosecution's position on sentencing, saying that Siow had an inability to control his urges.
She said: "Looking at the nature of intrusion, I would say it is minor."
When DPP Chan pointed out that Siow had committed three such acts, she acknowledged this but reiterated that "they were minor".
When he said two of the acts involved skin-to-skin contact, Judge Kaur said that it was "just a brief touch on the thigh".
Urging the court to grant probation, Siow's lawyer Raphael Louis said his client would be graduating from NUS in one to two years.
"He's getting help, he wants to change, he has learnt his lesson," he said.
When he asked Judge Kaur if she would like to hear the defence's position should probation not be called for, she said there was no need.
Noting his academic results and the recommendation for probation, the judge said: "I think there can be no doubt that there is extremely strong propensity for reform.
"He was 22 years old when he committed the offences... and the nature of the acts (is) relatively minor."
Apart from the supervised probation, Siow was also ordered to perform 150 hours of community service, and his parents were bonded for $5,000 to ensure his good behaviour.
Addressing Siow, the judge said: "I have every confidence you will not re-offend and hope you don't disappoint me."
After the sentence was handed out, DPP Chan asked the court for a stay of execution for 14 days so that the prosecution can consider its position on the judgment.
But Judge Kaur did not grant the request, and said the prosecution could go ahead and file an appeal if it wished to do so.
Siow is getting help at NUS to manage his sexual urges, and is expected to be back in school, the court heard.
When contacted by TNP on Wednesday, the victim said she was "disappointed but not surprised" by the outcome of the case.
For each count of outrage of modesty, Siow could have been jailed for up to two years, fined and/or caned.
MOLESTER FACED DISCIPLINARY SANCTIONS AT NUS
An NUS spokesman told TNP that Siow faced disciplinary sanctions, including the suspension of candidature and mandatory counselling, at a Board of Discipline hearing last October.
Stressing that NUS takes a serious view of student misconduct, the spokesman said disciplinary sanctions will form part of the student's formal educational record at the university.
In June, NUS accepted a review committee's recommendations of more stringent measures against sexual misconduct by its students.
This followed a public outcry over its handling of a Peeping Tom incident.
The new measures include a notation on the transcript of offenders, which can be removed on request three years after graduation.
As Siow's disciplinary hearing occurred before the change, he will not have a notation on his transcript.