Director at statutory board guilty of molesting 1 subordinate, acquitted of molesting another

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SINGAPORE — A director from a statutory board on trial for the molest of two subordinates was acquitted of molesting one of them, but convicted of molesting the other.

The 67-year-old man had claimed trial earlier this year to six charges of molesting two women, then aged 43 and 55.

Five of these charges related to the alleged younger victim, whom the man supposedly molested between mid-March and 13 September 2016 by hugging her so tightly that her breasts pressed against his body, by squeezing her buttocks, and by pressing his penis against her right arm.

For the only charge involving the older victim, the man was convicted of hugging the 55-year-old woman so tightly that her breasts pressed against him while in her office between June and July 2016.

The man was also accused of molesting the older woman during overseas work trips to the Philippines, Myanmar and Vietnam – these three charges have been stood down for the time being.

Due to a gag order, no details that can lead to the identification of the victims can be published, including the man’s name and the agency that the parties were from. The man is represented by lawyers Gary Low, Terence Tan and Victor Lau.

District Judge John Ng convicted the man on his sole charge involving the older victim on Wednesday (9 December). However, DJ Ng said he could not find the man guilty beyond a reasonable doubt for all five charges related to the younger woman. He added that he was satisfied that both women had been truthful when they each claimed to have experienced “unwelcome physical contact” with the accused.

In acquitting the man on the five charges, DJ Ng said that the burden was not on the defence to prove their client’s innocence or to prove that the testimony of the accuser was false.

“So long as defence is able to raise a reasonable doubt in case for prosecution, the accused has to be acquitted of that charge,” said DJ Ng.

He added that it was unsafe to convict the man on the five charges due to reasons including how the younger woman’s testimony was “seriously undermined” by the revelation of a statement she gave to the police.

The statement was produced and served by the prosecution on the defence after the former had closed its case, resulting in the younger woman having to be recalled to the stand for further cross-examination by the defence.

Two of the charges involving the younger woman were also undermined by inconsistencies revealed in her police statement. The woman had said in the statement that her breast had not pressed against the man on one occasion. She also stated that there were no other incidents after June 2016 in her statement.

But she later alleged that he had squeezed her buttocks. When the man was charged in December 2018, he was only accused of hugging the woman tightly, but had his charge amended to include how he had squeezed her buttocks.

“This material change raised an issue of whether (the younger woman) had belatedly included the additional act as an afterthought,” said DJ Ng.

He added that the woman could not provide adequate explanations to the inconsistencies. “These and many other concerns raised by defence of evidence of (the younger woman) could not be ignored. Doubts cast could not be dispelled easily,” he said.

“These unsatisfactory aspects of (the younger woman’s evidence) make it patently unsafe to convict the accused on the five charges relating to (the younger woman).

DJ Ng noted that there were inconsistencies in the man’s statement to the police. But the deficiencies in his evidence did not make up for the doubts in the evidence of the younger woman.

In addition, the judge said he believed the younger woman did not fabricate her unpleasant encounter with the man.

“She did feel sexually harassed. She did not welcome his hugs for which she was troubled but chose to overlook and forget. It is clear to me that she had no intention to make a police report against the accused, and tried very hard and managed to forget what the accused had done.”

When it came to trial, however, the woman was prepared to insist on her version of events even though she could not remember them.

On the older victim, DJ Ng said that her evidence was “cogent” and “reliable”, and that he was satisfied there was no collusion between both women.

The man will return to court on 4 January for his mitigation and sentencing.

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