SINGAPORE — A taxi driver who molested a 13-year-old boy who was his passenger was jailed for one year and two months, and given three strokes of the cane on Tuesday (13 April).
Chew Lye Beng, 58, was convicted after trial of molesting the teen on 21 July 2017 while the boy was sitting in the front passenger seat beside him. As he is above 50, Chew will be serving an additional three weeks' jail in lieu of caning.
Chew, who is now jobless, had first pinched the boy's cheeks. Sensing that he could get away with inappropriate touching, the taxi driver then molested the boy over his clothes and even asked the victim to go to the toilet with him.
The prosecution had sought at least one year and two months' jail and three strokes of cane for Chew, who it pointed out was a public transport worker ferrying a young charge home from school.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Chong Kee En also criticised the way Chew had behaved at trial, from the aspersions the defence had cast on the victim and how Chew had "suddenly" said he could not understand English due to another prosecutor's accent.
This happened after seven days of trial, midway through Chew's cross-examination, when Chew's lawyer informed the court that his client had not been following the trial till then because he did not understand English.
Chew asked to "redo the trial" but the court maintained that he could have a Mandarin interpreter for the rest of the trial and proceedings could not be restarted.
On 21 July 2017, at about 12.40pm, the victim, then a Secondary 1 student, wanted to go home to change his clothes and his bag before returning to school for his co-curricular activity. He asked a male friend to accompany him and the pair decided to flag a taxi.
Chew was then a part-time taxi driver driving a ComfortDelGro taxi. He picked up the boys in Bukit Batok then asked the victim to sit in the front seat.
He chatted with the boy throughout the journey and pinched his cheeks.
"Sensing he could get away with further inappropriate touching, when the taxi reached the (victim's) condominium, the accused, on the pretext of helping the (victim) with his seatbelt, reached over the (victim's) body and deliberately touched (him) on the area above his penis (over his clothes) before deliberately touching the complainant on the middle of his penis (over his clothes)," the prosecution said.
Shocked, the boy did not know how to react. He told his friend about the matter when they alighted.
Chew then asked the boy to show him where the toilet was. When the victim's friend tried to follow, Chew turned to him and told him to stay put. He asked the boy to go into the toilet with him, but the boy was frightened and ran away.
He then told his mother and teachers about the incident.
In defence, Chew's lawyer had argued that his client had touched the victim in an attempt to help him with the defective seatbelt. Chew had also claimed that the boy was either lying or that the taxi driver was being "friendly", "concerned" or "fatherly".
In mitigation, the lawyer said that Chew was remorseful and would not be appealing against his conviction. Chew would also like to apologise to the victim and will be seeking treatment for depression.
The lawyer sought a jail term of less than 14 months and no caning for Chew.
For molesting a person under 14, Chew could have been jailed up to five years and fined, or caned, or with any combination of the punishments.
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