An Uber driver who outraged the modesty of a female passenger had his probation order set aside and was given a jail term after it emerged that it was not the first time he had engaged in such acts.
Ng Chee Hong, 27, had his sentence enhanced to a two-week jail term following the prosecution’s appeal in the High Court on Friday (26 January). This after it revealed that Ng had been involved in 20 similar incidents dating back to 2010. Ng was not prosecuted for any of the incidents, which he had confessed to his psychiatrist and psychologists.
Ng has been diagnosed with frotteurism, a condition in which a person has recurrent and strong urges to touch or rub a non-consenting person.
Despite having been served two police warnings in 2011 and 2015, Ng continued his misbehaviour even until June last year – after he had pleaded guilty to molesting the female passenger in the present case.
Ng, who is currently working as a Customer Service Officer in his father’s company, was initially sentenced to an 18-month probation order by the State Courts in September last year, after he pleaded guilty to one count of stroking the woman’s right thigh with his fingers in 2016.
In a hearing presided by Justice Tay Yong Kwang, the prosecution submitted that the district judge in Ng’s case had erred in placing undue weight on Ng’s clean record and his psychiatric condition.
Not the first time
Deputy Public Prosecutor Tan Zhong Shan said that Ng’s offence should be taken as part of “a series of offences” in light of Ng’s confessions instead of a “one-off” incident.
He said Ng was first brought to the police station for questioning in 2011 in relation to alleged molest incidents but was let off with a warning. He was arrested by the police in November 2015 after he allegedly brushed his hand against the thighs of a few secondary school girls on a bus, but was again let off with a warning.
While working as an Uber driver between June and September 2016, Ng touched the thighs of several female passengers who took his car, usually as they were alighting, leading to multiple complaints lodged with Uber.
For the present case, DPP Tan pointed out that there was a degree of premeditation as Ng had asked the woman to sit in the front passenger seat, where she was within touching distance. Ng retained a level of self control when he committed the offence, the prosecution added.
The prosecution sought an eight-week jail term for Ng, arguing that there was a need to deter Ng, who was assessed to have a moderate to high risk of reoffending.
Speaking in court, Ng, who was unrepresented, asked for the probation order to be maintained. He said that the probation order would be “helpful” towards his recovery and that a jail term would result in “severe mental trauma”, which would hamper his reintegration into society.
Delivering the court’s decision, Justice Tay said, “Even if I regard (Ng) as a first offender despite the many voluntary confessions made by him to the psychiatrist and psychologist about his previous actions of a similar nature to the charge, the fact remains that (Ng) has accepted that this was not an isolated incident that was out of character with his general conduct.”
The Judge of Appeal added that Ng’s condition might explain his conduct, but did not excuse it.
“(Ng) was able to think clearly and logically before, during and after the offence. This is evident by his highly opportunistic planning to get the lady next to him at the front of the car,” said Justice Tay.
“(Ng) obviously used this opportunity as an excuse to get her next to him so that she was within striking distance of his preying hand.”
He noted however, that the eight-week sentence sought by the prosecution was “too harsh”.
In the September 2016 incident, the victim had used the UberPOOL application to book a ride and Ng had accepted the booking. Ng then directed the woman to sit in the passenger seat as he had to pick up another passenger.
After Ng picked up the second passenger and dropped him off, he drove to the woman’s intended destination, Bukit Panjang MRT station. The woman was unbuckling her seat belt to alight when she felt a touch on her right thigh.
She turned her head to see Ng stroking her right thigh with his fingers. The outraged woman later lodged a police report.