Naval officer spared jail for forcibly kissing fellow cadet

S'pore naval officer in Australian military academy placed on good behaviour order

Naval officer Benedict Ang Yong Chuean avoided jail last Thursday despite being found guilty of forcibly kissing a female fellow cadet in an Australian military college.

The 22-year-old lieutenant - who committed the indecent act in the victim's room - was placed on an 18-month good behaviour order by a Canberra judge.

In granting Ang's request to avoid a conviction, Justice John Burns of the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court noted that he had already suffered hardship due to the crime.

Justice Burns said the trial had "besmirched" Ang's reputation and brought shame on him, even though he had not admitted his guilt. He had been kicked out of the military academy and suspended on half pay by the Republic of Singapore Navy.

The judge said he took into consideration that Ang was in a new country that was very different to his own and that may have had a "disinhibiting effect" on him.

Justice Burns added that while the offence was "not trivial", it was at the lower end of the spectrum, reported Australian broadcaster ABC News.

The court also heard no other evidence to suggest that the Singaporean cadet had a bad character.

Ang, a Singapore Armed Forces scholarship holder, had entered the woman's room in the early hours of May 6 last year after a big night out, Australian media reported.

The prosecution said he had an "unrequited love" for the female cadet and had been sending her text messages all night asking where she was.

When he got back to the campus of the Australian Defence Force Academy in Canberra, she was already highly intoxicated after reportedly having 18 drinks earlier in the evening.

Her friends had given her a bucket to be sick in and put her to bed.

Fellow cadets had also written a message on a whiteboard in the hallway, saying that she was drunk and may need looking after, according to the Canberra Times.

Ang, who was reported to have had five drinks that night, then went into her room to check if she was awake.

When he did not receive a reply, he closed the door and lay down beside her, the paper added.

Prosecutor Shane Drumgold told an earlier court hearing that Ang - who was fixated on the victim - started by rubbing her back.

He then grabbed her by the jaw in a "pistol grip", and tried repeatedly to kiss her.

When she resisted, he blocked her nose and shoved his tongue inside her mouth when she was forced to open it for air, the Canberra Times reported.

Australian media said the female cadet - who was 18 at the time - did not scream because the nearby rooms were empty.

Ang's behaviour was described in court as a "very significant breach of trust", which left the victim with feelings of "fear, disgust, and powerlessness".

He was also said to have undone her bra while she was asleep, and fondled her breast, although a jury cleared him of this charge.

However, the Singaporean cadet, who has maintained his innocence throughout, said he had merely given her a back rub after she complained of feeling sore.

He also said the kiss was "consensual" and that he stopped when she resisted, according to The Canberra Times.

Ang reportedly admitted to his fellow cadets that he had made a mistake, and pleaded with them not to tell the authorities as it would ruin his career.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Defence told The Sunday Times last night that it would be "inappropriate" to comment as both the prosecution and defence still have 28 days to appeal to charge.

Join ST's WhatsApp Channel and get the latest news and must-reads.