The man who abducted an intoxicated female intern from where they were partying at Zouk and raped her in his home was given 13 years and six months’ jail and 12 strokes of the cane on Monday (13 November).
Judicial Commissioner (JC) Aedit Abdullah said that Ong Soon Heng, 40, was entrusted to bring the woman home safely by her colleagues, friends and staff members of the club, but had exploited the opportunity instead.
Ong’s lawyer, Sunil Sudheesan, has applied for bail for Ong, pending the defence’s appeal against his conviction and sentence.
In July this year, Ong was convicted of raping the 22-year-old woman, who had interned at his workplace and treated him as a confidante. The two had partied with a group of colleagues until the wee hours of 24 July 2014 in Zouk, where the woman became intoxicated. Ong later offered to take the woman home but drove her to his landed house where he raped her.
JC Aedit said, “(Ong) was given the opportunity to be alone with the victim and in control of the victim’s person because the others thought he was bringing her home, and would keep her safe. That to my mind would be analogous to an exploitation of trust by position.”
He rejected the prosecution’s argument that Ong had abused his position of authority as Ong had not “exploited” his position when he committed the offence.
“Here, the work or collegial or even friendly relationship between the accused and the victim would have been material had that been exploited for instance in the deliberate plying of drinks to make her drunk,” said DJ Aedit, adding that there was no evidence of such an attempt.
He also dismissed the prosecution’s submissions that there was premeditation on Ong’s part, as there was no evidence of “significant planning and orchestration”. Exploitation of an opportunity does not amount to premeditation, said the JC.
On the day of the incident, closed-circuit television footage from Zouk showed Ong carrying the woman into his car at about 4am. Evidence given by an Institute of Mental Health psychiatrist showed that the woman was unconscious between 4am and 6.30am, based on her blood alcohol level.
The woman was traced to Ong’s house by her boyfriend, who used a phone application to track the location of her mobile phone. The boyfriend found her lying in a stupor next to Ong in the accused’s house. She was wearing boxer shorts and a T-shirt that were not hers.
The prosecution, led by Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Siti Adrianni Marhain, reiterated in its further submissions that during the trial Ong had “deliberately chosen a defence that slandered her character and continued to humiliate and retraumatise her long after the initial offences”. Ong had said during the trial that he was in a relationship with the woman.
It submitted the victim’s impact statement in which the woman said that she was plagued by suicidal thoughts following the incident. The woman said that she had been receiving psychiatric help for at least six months but stopped the session as it was too traumatising for her to keep reliving the incident. She had also been taking medication for anxiety, insomnia and depression.
“In fact, one of the questions that kept (the woman) awake at night in the aftermath of the incident was why someone she genuinely regarded as a good friend would betray her trust,” DPP Adrianni told the court.
In the last hearing, the prosecution had asked for at least 14 years’ jail and 12 strokes of the cane to be imposed on Ong. The woman’s father, who was present in court, said to reporters following the sentence that he wanted to understand what else Ong had to say, adding that it was not for him to say whether the sentence was “fair”.
During the hearing on 13 September, JC Aedit criticised irresponsible online comments on the case, saying that they could potentially deter victims from coming forward to report similar cases.
He said, “I strongly urge those who comment to think twice as there is a real impact on people in the process, and comments of such nature are very unhelpful.”
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