Judge explains why student’s probation sentence for molest charge should not be seen as ‘soft option’

In September, Terence Siow was sentenced to 21 months of supervised probation after pleading guilty to one charge of outraging the modesty of a 28-year-old woman.
The New Paper

The judge who sentenced a student to probation on a molestation charge has made clear that probation should not be seen as a “soft option”.

“During the period of 21 months, he would have to perform 150 hours of community service, be subjected to a time curfew and attend offence-specific treatment programmes which will address any risk of reoffending and enable him to be a useful member of society,” said District Judge Jasvender Kaur in judgment grounds issued earlier this month.

In September, Terence Siow was sentenced to 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.

Siow, a National University of Singapore student who was 22 at the time of the offence, admitted to touching the buttocks of the woman while travelling up an escalator at Serangoon MRT station at about 11.40pm on Sept 12 last year.

He also admitted to two other charges related to touching the side of the victim’s right thigh with the back of his left hand.

“In my view, (probation) will be in the best interests of not only the accused, but of society,” said Judge Kaur.

Prosecutors, who are appealing, had sought a six-week jail term, arguing that outrage of modesty offences are very serious, particularly when committed on public transport.

They referred to Siow’s admission to the probation officer that he had touched other females since he started his university education in August 2016.

Siow’s lawyer, Mr Raphael Louis, in urging probation, stressed that his client cooperated during investigations and had pleaded guilty, among other things. The honours degree student is an only child with a humble family background, the lawyer added.

In assessing the seriousness of the offence, the judge said she found the degree of sexual exploitation low. She also found the offences fell within the lower end of a band in a given framework from a case last year that would draw a jail term of two weeks at most.

The judge noted that the prosecution had relied on Siow’s frank admission that he had previously touched other females in crowded buses or trains but managed to escape detection.

Judge Kaur clarified that the accused can be sentenced for only the offence which he has pleaded guilty to and consented to be taken into consideration, based on established principles of law.

Judge Kaur also noted that Deputy Public Prosecutor Deborah Lee, to her credit, had frankly disclosed that the victim was uncertain if the two offences taken into consideration were accidental or otherwise.

The judge accepted that deterrence was “ordinarily the dominant sentencing consideration for offences of outrage of modesty committed on public transport” but, while the offence was serious, the nature of the intrusions was relatively minor.

The judge’s decision in the case prompted many netizens to question the adequacy of the sentence and the relevance of academic results in the sentencing.

Judge Kaur had also said Siow’s good academic performance highlighted his “potential to excel in life”.

The commencement of probation has been stayed pending the prosecution’s appeal.

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