Yoga teacher gets caning, longer jail term for molesting student after prosecution appeals

Rakesh Kumar Prasad had also appealed against his conviction but his arguments were rejected by the court. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - A yoga instructor who repeatedly molested his student had his jail sentence upped from nine months to a year, and was also given three strokes of the cane on Friday (Oct 12), after the High Court allowed an appeal by the prosecution.

Indian national Rakesh Kumar Prasad, 26, had also appealed against his conviction but his arguments were rejected by the court.

Justice See Kee Oon said Rakesh had blatantly abused his position of trust. "His sheer audacity in carrying out repeated intrusions with increasing brazenness while disparaging, belittling and threatening the victim must point strongly towards the need for caning," said the judge.

Rakesh had molested the woman, then 25, while she was the only student in his class at the Real Yoga studio in Tampines on April 26, 2015.

He cupped her breast while she was bending forward. She smacked his hand away and told him: "Don't touch my boobs." Instead of stopping, he pinched her breast. She told him off again but he molested her a third time by reaching into her bra. She knocked his hand away.

Later, he said to her "why cannot touch? ... It's not like there is anything to touch".

As she was leaving the studio, he grabbed her neck and pulled her backwards, telling her not to use the word "boob" and not to shout during his class.

The woman made a police report the next day.

After a trial, Rakesh was found guilty of one charge each of molestation and of using criminal force for grabbing the woman's neck. He was sentenced in April to nine months' jail for molesting her and fined $1,000 for grabbing her neck.

He appealed against his conviction. His lawyer argued that surveillance footage of the studio indicated that he could not have molested the woman in the way she described.

But Justice See said it was not possible to discern any details given the poor picture quality. The footage did not raise any reasonable doubt in Rakesh's favour, he added.

The judge said a year's jail was warranted as the case involved repeated skin-to-skin contact with the woman's private parts, with no substantial mitigating factors.

The fact that Rakesh persisted after the woman fended him off, with his actions escalating, was an aggravating factor that warranted caning, he said.

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