Undergraduate who molested woman on train jailed after probation sentence overturned

Terence Siow Kai Yuan, 24, was sentenced to 21 months’ probation and 150 hours of community service last year. (Yahoo News Singapore file photo)
Terence Siow Kai Yuan, 24, was sentenced to 21 months’ probation and 150 hours of community service last year. (Yahoo News Singapore file photo)

SINGAPORE — A 24-year-old former university undergraduate who was last year sentenced to 21 months’ probation and 150 hours of community service for molesting an MRT commuter will instead serve two weeks behind bars.

Terence Siow Kai Yuan first came into the public spotlight after his case was reported by The New Paper on 26 September last year.

Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, who heard the prosecution’s appeal for a two- to three-week jail term, said in his judgment on Monday (27 April) that “it is critical that the respondent and other like-minded prospective offenders clearly understand that such misconduct, which is offensive and demeaning to the victim, no matter how minor the intrusion, will almost invariably attract a sharp punitive response”.

In September 2018, Siow, who was then a student at the National University of Singapore, touched a 28-year-old woman’s thigh twice while on board a North East Line train. He then tailed her as she alighted and touched her buttocks once while on the escalator at Serangoon MRT station.

The perpetrator later admitted to the police that the incidents had not been his first time touching women in crowded buses or trains. He said he had been committing such acts since August 2016 and had not been caught for them.

Siow pleaded guilty to one charge of outrage of modesty, with another two similar charges considered in sentencing as part of his plea bargain. The prosecution had sought six weeks’ jail at the State Courts last year.

He was also given disciplinary sanctions by the university, including the suspension of candidature, and mandatory counselling after a Board of Discipline hearing.

An NUS spokesman also said the school takes a serious view of misconduct and that disciplinary sanctions will appear on a student's formal educational record.

Need to deter offences on public transport

In his judgment, which was delivered via video-conferencing on Monday, CJ Menon said he was satisfied that the District Judge who heard Siow’s case correctly observed that the degree of sexual exploitation in the proceeded charge was low as the touch was momentary and there was no skin-to-skin contact. There was also no evidence that the harm caused to the victim was severe.

But the Chief Justice also noted that Parliament has repeatedly highlighted a growing need to deter crimes committed on the public transport network. “I think that is correct also because the public transport network is used by the vast majority of people in Singapore each and every day. It is a matter of immense importance that they feel able to do so, knowing that they are safe,” he added.

While the sole aggravating factor was that the offence was committed on public transport, CJ Menon said he was satisfied that the custodial threshold was crossed.

The maximum punishment for using criminal force to outrage the modesty of a person is up to two years' jail along with a fine and caning.

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