Judge orders dad to stop stalking and harassing son

A judge issued a personal protection order (PPO) against a 57-year-old father and in favour of his son.

The man stalked and harassed his 24-year-old son over ten months, including loitering outside his camp while he was doing national service.

On one occasion last year, the father visited the camp and complained publicly about his son's conduct, which distressed and embarrassed the son.

In judgment grounds issued last week, District Judge Cheryl Koh noted how the son recalled that all his commanders asked him about his father's actions. "I told them about it, and after that, of course, they told me that they will try to prevent my parents from coming in, seeing me," said the son.

The judge ruled that it was necessary to issue a PPO to protect the son "from the father's unwanted intrusions and harassment, before the situation becomes more serious or entrenched, and either party acts out of desperation against each other".

The court heard the fallout took place in November 2018 when both had a dispute over the son collecting a deposit from his sister to use his laptop. The father sent his son a message saying, "If you have the guts, don't come home", called him an "unfilial son" and used a vulgarity.

The son then moved out of the father's house and currently lives with his girlfriend and her parents.

The incidents at his national service camp formed two of seven complaints of harassment cited by the son in his PPO application.

The complaints included an incident on Dec 31, 2018 when the father created a scene at the son's girlfriend's workplace. He confronted her, shouted at her and took photos, which led her to consider an early termination of her contract.

On June 23 last year, he confronted the girlfriend at a bus stop, which led to a physical altercation between the father and the son and the police being called.

The father admitted to these incidents, but argued that he did so only because he wanted to see the son or ask him to go home.

District Judge Koh noted the cumulative effect of relentlessly approaching and confronting the son, following him, loitering in wait for him at his camp and at his girlfriend's residence, approaching and confronting the girlfriend and confronting her parents outside their home, and filming them on video.

The judge said the actions "evidenced a quality of repetitive and persistent conduct on the father's part that would have been distressing to the son". "It is akin to rejection stalking, where the father, having been rejected by the son, repeatedly, unwantedly and disruptively intruded upon the son's life."

The judge noted the father has expressed remorse and indicated he would stop visiting his son, but made clear "the court is not making any judgment as to whether it is justified or reasonable for the son to have left home at such young adulthood". She ordered the parties to undergo mandatory counselling at a family violence service centre and fixed a counselling review in the Family Court in six months' time.

"It is hoped that with the passage of time, a healing space and the intervention of professional counselling... the son would find it in the depths of his heart one day to reconcile with the father."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 27, 2020, with the headline Judge orders dad to stop stalking and harassing son. Subscribe