Shanmugam 'surprised' by molest case outcome; AGC files appeal against sentence

Minister for Law K Shanmugam. (PHOTO: Parliament screencap)
Minister for Law K Shanmugam. (PHOTO: Parliament screencap)

UPDATE: The Attorney-General’s Chambers has filed an appeal against the sentence imposed on Terence Siow.

SINGAPORE — Home Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam said on Friday (27 September) that he was “surprised” by the verdict of a molest case, in which a university student was given probation after the judge rejected the prosecution's call for a custodial sentence.

In a Facebook post, Shanmugam also revealed that officers at the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) told him that they disagreed with the verdict as well, and intend to appeal.

Following the minister’s post, the AGC said in response to media queries that it has filed an appeal against the sentence in the case.

“The Attorney-General's Chambers has filed a notice of appeal to the High Court with respect to the sentence imposed on Terence Siow Kai Yuan. We are unable to comment further as the matter is now before the Courts,” the AGC said in a statement.

Offences deemed ‘minor intrusions’

On Wednesday, National University of Singapore (NUS) student Terence Siow Kai Yuan was given 21 months of supervised probation after pleading guilty to one charge of outraging the modesty of a 28-year-old woman. Two similar charges were taken into consideration.

In her verdict, District Judge Jasvender Kaur described his offences as "minor intrusions" several times. She also noted that the probation report had found Siow suitable for probation as his academic results show he has the "potential to excel in life".

Shanmugam acknowledged in his post that there has been a fair bit of reaction to the verdict, and that the victim has also made her views clear.

“People are entitled to express their views, unhappiness, with the verdict, and their feelings that the punishment is inadequate,” he wrote.

“I can also understand how the victim and her parents must feel. The father wrote to me. Many of us (speaking for myself as a parent), will feel the same way.

“I was surprised, myself, with the verdict.”

However, he urged the public to avoid casting aspersions on the judges, saying that they are “doing their duty, to the best of their abilities”.

He said the public should let the Appeal Court look at the matter.

“If, after the Appeal is decided, we, as a society, still generally believe that the law should deliver a different outcome, then it is not the Courts’ fault. It is then for Parliament to deal with that, change the law,” he wrote.

Molested from MRT train to station

According to court documents, Siow was travelling on the North East Line on 12 November 2018 towards Punggol MRT Station when he saw the victim.

Siow sat beside her and touched her right thigh. When the victim shifted away and crossed her legs, Siow touched her thigh again.

The victim quickly vacated her seat and subsequently alighted at Serangoon MRT. However, Siow alighted as well, followed her and touched her buttocks at an ascending escalator in the station.

The victim turned around, shouted at Siow and informed the station officer, who notified the police.

When contacted by The New Paper after the verdict, the victim said she was "disappointed but not surprised" by the outcome of the case.

For each count of outrage of modesty, Siow could have been jailed for up to two years, fined and/or caned.

An NUS spokesman told The New Paper that Siow faced disciplinary sanctions, including the suspension of candidature and mandatory counselling, at a Board of Discipline hearing last October.

Stressing that NUS takes a serious view of student misconduct, the spokesman said disciplinary sanctions will form part of the student's formal educational record at the university.

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