SINGAPORE — A male passenger convicted of molesting a Scoot stewardess while onboard a flight had his appeal against his conviction dismissed by the High Court on Friday (16 October).
The evidence found against Vijayan Mathan Gopal, 40, proved beyond a reasonable doubt that he had committed the offences, despite inconsistencies of the victim’s testimony, stated Justice Aedit Abdullah.
Vijayan, a Singapore permanent resident, had been sentenced to four months’ jail by a district court after the judge found him guilty of holding the then 22-year-old air stewardess’ right arm, touching her face, cupping her face with his hands, placing his hand on the victim’s right thigh, and touching her buttock with his hand.
During Vijayan’s appeal hearing, Deputy Public Prosecutors Winston Man and Tan Yen Seow argued that the appeal was “unmeritorious and should be dismissed”.
They raised testimonies of the two eyewitnesses, including another passenger, who saw Vijayan molest the woman.
Vijayan’s lawyers Ramesh Selvaraj, Joshua Hiew and Nicholas Kam argued that the trial judge had erred in her finding that the victim was a credible witness when her evidence contradicted other witnesses’ testimonies.
The former safety inspector committed the offence while on a flight from Cochin, India to Singapore on 2 November 2017, after boarding the plane reeking of alcohol and with his pants unzipped. He was the last to board the flight before it took off.
During the flight, Vijayan, who was in an aisle seat, got into a dispute with another air stewardess as he refused to pay for his order of food and wine before it was served. The angered man tried to make a complaint about this air stewardess.
To placate him, the victim agreed to serve his food before payment. She also instructed her co-worker to apologise to Vijayan.
However, Vijayan refused his order when it was served. He later accepted it from an air steward.
Vijayan later pressed the call button continuously to speak to the victim, who was attending to another passenger who felt unwell.
When the victim attended to Vijayan, she knelt down and told Vijayan firmly not to press the call button again. She wrote down her and her co-worker’s names and staff numbers for Vijayan when he said he wanted to complain.
Vijayan then asked the victim where she lived before holding her right hand and stroking her face from forehead to chin. He told her, “You are so beautiful”, before cupping her face, according to the victim.
The victim said she felt “angry, uncomfortable and very disgusted”. She leaned back and raised her voice saying “sir, sir, sir”, but Vijayan replied, “Do not throw your anger at me” and “I’m the boss of the flight”.
When the victim tried to stand, Vijayan held onto her right arm and forcefully placed his hand on her right thigh.
After the victim managed to stand up and turn around, she felt the man touch her buttocks. The exchange was witnessed by her co-worker and another passenger.
The victim reported the incident to the captain, and lodged a report with Scoot.
In his defence, Vijayan denied committing the acts and claimed that the incident was fabricated by the victim and her co-worker to suppress his complaint against the co-worker for poor service. He tendered a portion of the air sickness bag with the victim’s and her co-worker’s particulars, and images of the passenger feedback form as evidence.
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