Man pleads guilty to possessing and distributing 280 obscene videos

Nigel Chin
File photo of an iPhone: AFP

A man who possessed and circulated 280 obscene videos taken in places such as toilets and changing rooms pleaded guilty to the offence on Thursday (21 September).

Joel Chew Wei Chen, a 27-year-old Singaporean, admitted to one count of possession of obscene films for the purpose of distributing them.

The sales engineer was a member of an online group called SG Horizon Group, which was set up to discuss and share sex-themed videos of Singaporeans. Horizon was created via the Google Groups service by Ali V P Mohamed, a 46-year-old Singaporean, in late 2016.

The videos shared by members of Horizon included upskirt videos, as well as those filmed with hidden cameras in female, unisex and handicapped toilets, and changing rooms in retail shops. These members would circulate the videos via a file-sharing service called Volafile.

Chew had been invited to join Horizon from another group that was set up for a similar purpose called LittleSG. He joined LittleSG some time in 2016 after being sent an invitation on sex-forum Sammyboy Forum.

The court heard that through these three platforms, Chew had downloaded and shared 775 videos, of which 280 were certified by the Board of Film Censors as obscene. All 775 videos were found on four hard-disk drives recovered from him.

Chew also uploaded videos from his own collection to trade because some members were only willing to provide new material to him only if he had done the same. He also shared the videos with members who requested for them on discussion threads in the groups.

Some of the videos had exposed the private parts of victims who were trying clothes and inner-wear in changing rooms, showering in public bathrooms, and relieving themselves in toilets, DPP Tang Shang Jun told the court. The victims’ faces were also captured in all the videos.

Chew was caught after an officer from the Ministry of Education received information that the videos were being circulated on Sammyboy Forum and lodged a police report. Ali was subsequently arrested and he then divulged details of active members of Horizon including Chew to investigators.

DPP Tang is pushing for a sentence of at least six months to be imposed on Chew, given the intrusion of privacy in toilets and changing rooms. The privacy of the victims has also been “shattered because of technology”, he said.

“The nature of the internet also means that it is highly difficult to remove the films almost entirely… it would be intensely humiliating should the victims one day chance upon films of themselves on the internet, or perhaps have the films sent to them by friends of loved ones,” Tang added.

Chew is expected to be sentenced on 5 October. He faces a jail term of up to two years or a fine of between $2,000 and $80,000 or both.

Four co-accused – Ali, Lee Shaun, Tang Jia Ming Clarence and Ong Yi Jie – have also been charged and are awaiting for their cases to be heard. Tang and Ong also face trespassing and conspiracy charges.