Undergrad accused of illicitly filming women blocked from leaving Singapore but gag order maintained

Wan Ting Koh
Reporter
The prosecution had on Tuesday submitted two applications to prevent the man from resuming his studies in the United Kingdom and to lift the gag order on his identity.  (PHOTO: Getty Images)

SINGAPORE — An undergraduate accused of taking explicit videos of 12 women had his application to leave the country revoked by a district court on Thursday (16 January).

However, District Judge Adam Nakhoda maintained the gag order on the 22-year-old man, despite the prosecution’s attempt to have his identity revealed two days earlier. 

The prosecution had on Tuesday submitted two applications to prevent the man from resuming his studies in the United Kingdom and to lift the gag order on his identity. 

After considering the matter for two days, DJ Nakhoda said the new evidence revealed the accused’s intention to remain overseas and hence placed him as a high flight risk. He consequently revoked the application that he granted on 10 January that allowed the man to leave the jurisdiction from 13 January to 16 March.

The judge declined to lift the gag order as two of the accused’s victims had not given their consent to the risk of their identities being exposed.

The man, an undergraduate at a top British university, was charged with filming two women in toilets at Orchard Hotel and his condominium on 2 October last year. He was later handed more charges relating to taking upskirt videos of other women or filming them in the toilet.

Ten of his victims had supported the prosecution in its application to remove the gag order, stating that the man should not be allowed to hide behind it. Of the two remaining victims, one had reservations and the other, 16 years old, was not consulted at the request of her family. 

The prosecution had submitted that it was sufficiently difficult to identity the specific victims, while the man’s lawyer Kalidass Murugaiyan said it was up to the courts to decide on the gag order, not the victims.

In his decision, DJ Nakhoda said that the gag order was extended to cover the accused when he was charged as there was a chance the identity of the victims could be exposed based on the location and circumstances of the offences.

“This factor has not changed,” said the judge.

“I agree that the victims’ consent to the accused’s identity being disclosed does not amount to the victims’ waiving their rights to anonymity, it (is) a case of them accepting the risks that their identities may be exposed if the identity of the accused is made known.”

However he declined to lift the gag order as the two remaining victims had not “unequivocally agreed to the risk that their identities will become known”.

Death in messages do not refer to physical death: Judge

Deputy Public Prosecutor Foo Shi Hao had sought to block the man from departing Singapore, submitting fresh evidence which ostensibly revealed his plans to seek asylum overseas. Evidence of this was presented in the form of text messages exchanged between the man and a close female friend, who also happened to be a victim. 

In the messages, the man said that he might not return to Singapore and that it would mean certain “metaphorical death” to stay. Contesting the significance of the messages, Kalidass had said that the man was referring to committing suicide. 

DJ Nakhoda, however, found that the man had not meant physical death but alluded to how his future would be adversely affected if he were to remain in Singapore. The accused person had also used the word “asylum”, which could only mean that he was contemplating staying out of Singapore to avoid the consequences of his case, said the judge.

While the man had expressed suicidal ideations in a conversation with another friend, the judge found that this was not the tone of the conversation with his female friend.

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