NUS Molest Case: Undergrad Will Not Start Probation, Pending Appeal Outcome

nus-molest-case-probation-terence

NUS undergraduate Terence Siow Kai Yuan, 23, will not start his probation term for molesting a 28-year-old woman in an MRT train while an appeal against his sentence is before the courts.

On Friday (Oct 4), District Judge Jasvender Kaur allowed a stay of execution on the probation order, pending the outcome of the prosecution’s appeal.

Prosecutors are seeking to overturn the judge’s decision to sentence Siow to 21 months’ supervised probation, instead of their proposed sentence of six weeks’ jail.

Besides the probation, Terence was on Sept 25 also ordered to perform 150 hours of community service, and attend an offence-specific treatment programme.

His parents had to also put up a $5,000 bond to ensure their son’s good behaviour during the probation period.

In Terence’s probation suitability report, the student admitted to committing similar acts since he enrolled in the National University of Singapore in 2016, but indicated he was unable to recall the number of times he did it.

However, the judge rejected the prosecution’s call for a jail sentence, saying Siow had a strong propensity to reform and had characterised his offences as “minor intrusions”.

Noting his academic results and the recommendation for probation, the judge said: “I think there can be no doubt that there is extremely strong propensity for reform.

“He was 22 years old when he committed the offences… and the nature of the acts (is) relatively minor.”

The decision prompted many to question the adequacy of the sentence and the relevance of academic results in sentencing him.

Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam also weighed in on the topic, taking to social media to express his surprise at the sentence, while calling for netizens to avoid casting aspersions on the judge.

In court on Friday, Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Gail Wong said a stay of execution of the probation order would be in the interest of fairness and justice, maintaining that the offences committed by Siow was a “serious” one.

However, Terence’s lawyer Raphael Louis said the student should be allowed to continue with the rehabilitative process, noting that Terence needs help to change.

“The probation process is in place to help him, not to hinder the appeal process or stifle the prosecution’s submissions,” said Mr Louis.

But DPP Wong said there would be a dilemma, after the appeal, if Terence has already served part of his probation.

“There’s nothing to impede him from (seeking help) even if the stay of execution is granted,” she said.

In deciding to allow a stay of execution on the probation order, the judge said that even if the High Court agreed with her decision, all it would cost Terence is a delay in the start of his probation.

On the other hand, if the High Court allows the appeal, then Terence would have “undergone a programme that was not meant for him”, she said.

Image: ST Photo / Wong Kwai Chow
Text: Cara Wong / The Straits Times / October 2019


Apology Letter Not Given To Victim, But To Newspaper

The woman molested by a university student on a train has said that she had not received a letter of apology written by the offender from him.

The letter, reportedly handwritten by Terence Siow Kai Yuan, 23, earlier this year, was part of the defence’s mitigation during sentencing, Chinese-language newspaper Shin Min Daily News reported on Saturday.

Shin Min sent the victim, Karmen Siew, 28, a copy of the letter via a messaging app.

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Image: Shin Min Daily

Karmen said on Facebook yesterday it was the first time she had heard of the apology.

“I was never given a copy and had no idea it existed prior to Shin Min bringing it up,” she said.

Karmen told The New Paper that she had not read the copy of the letter sent to her.

“I think it’s strange that a handwritten letter that was supposedly meant for me did not reach me, but instead got to Shin Min first,” she said.

Karmen previously said on Facebook that she had rejected an offer of $5,000 in compensation from Terence if they could settle the case out of court.

This procedure, known as compounding of an offence, usually involves monetary compensation and an apology to the alleged victim, and effectively acquits the accused of the crime.

Sentenced to Probation

Terence, an applied mathematics student in the National University of Singapore, was given 21 months’ probation last Wednesday after pleading guilty to one count of outrage of modesty, with two similar charges taken into consideration.

He committed the offences against Karmen on a train and at Serangoon MRT station on Sept 12 last year. He was also ordered to perform 150 hours of community service and his parents were bonded for $5,000 to ensure his good behaviour.

In his apology to Karmen, Terence said he had learnt his lesson and would not do it again.

“I wasn’t the most clear-headed that night, and as a result I ended up being unable to control myself and ultimately gave in to my urges,” he wrote.

Asking for a chance to reform and become a value-adding member of society, he added: “Words can’t express how regretful and remorseful I am for my actions that day.

“This is a major turning point in my life, and I am fully committed to correcting my mentality and behaviour to become a changed man.”

During sentencing last Wednesday, the prosecution called for Terence to be jailed for six weeks, but District Judge Jasvender Kaur disagreed.

In giving Terence probation, she described his offences as “minor intrusions” and noted the probation report had found Terence suitable for probation because of strong family support and his academic results showed his potential to excel in life.

The case sparked strong public reaction over what many felt was a lenient sentence and also why good grades had been a factor in deciding probation.

In a Facebook post last Friday, Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam said he, too, was surprised by the verdict.

When he asked the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC), its officers told him they disagreed with the verdict and intended to appeal, he added. The appeal was filed that day.

Noting that Karmen’s father had written to him, Mr Shanmugam said that as a parent himself, he understood how the victim and her parents must feel.

But he warned the public not to cast aspersions on the judge.

“People are entitled to express their views, unhappiness, with the verdict, and their feelings that the punishment is inadequate,” he wrote. “We nevertheless should avoid casting aspersions personally on judges—they are doing their duty, to the best of their abilities.”

Text: David Sun / The New Paper / September 2019


https://media.cleo.com.sg/2019/09/nus-molest-case-agc-appeal.jpg

Prosecutors have filed an appeal against a district judge’s decision to sentence an undergraduate to supervised probation for molesting a woman.

Law Minister K. Shanmugam revealed this yesterday, two days after the verdict, adding that he was surprised by the ruling.

Mr Shanmugam said officers in the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) disagreed with the verdict and intended to appeal.

“That is consistent with my views as well,” he added.

An AGC spokesman said yesterday that the prosecution “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,” said the spokesman.

In a Facebook post yesterday, the minister said he could understand how the victim and her parents must feel, adding that the victim’s father had written to him.

The 28-year-old victim, who had identified herself openly on Facebook and in an interview with The New Paper, had said she was disappointed with the verdict as she had hoped the perpetrator would be given jail time instead.

Terence, 23, a National University of Singapore undergraduate, had pleaded guilty to one count of outraging the modesty of the woman on an MRT train. Another two similar charges were taken into consideration during sentencing.

FACTORS CONSIDERED

(There) can be no doubt that there is extremely strong propensity to reform. (He has the) potential to excel in life.

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. And people know – in Singapore, the Government will move, and put legislation before Parliament to consider.

The offences were committed in September last year. Sitting next to the woman on the train, Terence touched the woman’s thigh twice. When she moved away and alighted from the train, he followed her and touched her buttocks over her clothes while they were on the escalator.

He was sentenced on Wednesday to 21 months of supervised probation. Prosecutors had objected to probation and asked for six weeks in jail, but this was denied by District Judge Jasvender Kaur.

She found that Terence had an inability to control his urges, and described the acts as “minor” in the nature of intrusion.

Citing reasons such as his academic results and the recommendation for probation, she said there “can be no doubt that there is extremely strong propensity to reform”. His academic results show that he has the “potential to excel in life”, said the judge.

The case has seen strong reactions online, with many saying that the sentence was inadequate and querying why Terence’s academic results were relevant to it.

An online petition rallying people to stand against the purported favouritism towards “educated sex offenders” had gathered more than 29,000 signatures as at 10pm last night on the change.org website.

However, lawyers noted that many factors would be taken into account during sentencing, and not just a person’s educational qualifications.

Sentencing is a fact-specific exercise, so it is difficult to comment on the judge’s decision when there is insufficient information in the public domain, experts told The Straits Times.

In his Facebook post, Mr Shanmugam said that people are entitled to express their views, including their unhappiness with the verdict and their feelings that the punishment is inadequate.

But he added that people should avoid casting aspersions on judges.

“They are doing their duty, to the best of their abilities,” he said.

“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,” the minister added.

“It is then for Parliament to deal with that, change the law. And people know—in Singapore, the Government will move, and put legislation before Parliament to consider.”

Image: 123RF.com
Text: Cara Wong / The Straits Times/ September 2019


NUS-student-molest-probation

A student from National University of Singapore who molested a woman was given probation yesterday after the judge rejected the prosecution’s call for a custodial sentence.

Citing her reasons, District Judge Jasvender Kaur described Terence Siow Kai Yuan’s offences as “minor intrusions” several times.

She also noted that the probation report had found Terence suitable for probation as his academic results show he has the “potential to excel in life”.

Terence, 23, 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.

The National University of Singapore (NUS) student was on a train on the North East Line heading towards Punggol station at about 11.30pm on Sept 12 last year when he noticed a woman with “very long legs” in a pair of shorts.

When he used his left hand to touch the outside of her right thigh, she shifted away from him and crossed her legs.

When Terence touched her right thigh again, she moved to another seat, and later alighted at Serangoon station.

But Terence followed her as he felt the urge to touch her again. As she was on an escalator, he stood behind her and used his finger to touch her buttocks over her shorts.

The woman turned around and shouted at him as he walked quickly towards the control station. She told a station officer she had been molested and pointed to Terence as he was leaving the station.

The woman made a police report about 1½ hours later.

The New Paper previously reported that the police arrested a suspect at Hougang Avenue 5 three days later.

After Terence’s conviction in a previous hearing, the court called for a probation suitability report.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Benedict Chan yesterday said the prosecution objected to probation for Terence and urged the court to jail him for six weeks instead.

He noted that Terence had admitted in the probation report to committing similar acts since he enrolled in NUS in 2016.

DPP Chan said it was troubling that Terence was unable to recall the number of times he had committed such acts.

Calling them a “deep-seated habit”, he added: “The accused knew it was wrong but was emboldened after previous successes. He only sought help after facing the university’s Board of Discipline.”

“Normal in every sense”

DPP Chan added that Terence was “normal in every sense” and did not suffer from any disorder.

But Judge Kaur questioned the prosecution’s position on sentencing, saying that Siow had an inability to control his urges.

She said: “Looking at the nature of intrusion, I would say it is minor.”

When DPP Chan pointed out that Terence had committed three such acts, she acknowledged this but reiterated that “they were minor”.

When he said two of the acts involved skin-to-skin contact, Judge Kaur said that it was “just a brief touch on the thigh”.

Urging the court to grant probation, Terence’s lawyer Raphael Louis said his client would be graduating from NUS in one to two years.

“He’s getting help, he wants to change, he has learnt his lesson,” he said.

When he asked Judge Kaur if she would like to hear the defence’s position should probation not be called for, she said there was no need.

Noting his academic results and the recommendation for probation, the judge said: “I think there can be no doubt that there is extremely strong propensity for reform.

“He was 22 years old when he committed the offences… and the nature of the acts (is) relatively minor.”

Apart from the supervised probation, Terence was also ordered to perform 150 hours of community service, and his parents were bonded for $5,000 to ensure his good behaviour.

Addressing Terence, the judge said: “I have every confidence you will not re-offend and hope you don’t disappoint me.”

After the sentence was handed out, DPP Chan asked the court for a stay of execution for 14 days so that the prosecution can consider its position on the judgement.

But Judge Kaur did not grant the request, and said the prosecution could go ahead and file an appeal if it wished to do so.

Terence is getting help at NUS to manage his sexual urges, and is expected to be back in school, the court heard.

When contacted by TNP yesterday, the victim said she was “disappointed but not surprised” by the outcome of the case.

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

Terence is being counselled at the National University of Singapore (NUS) and is expected to eventually graduate, the court was told yesterday.

An NUS spokesman later told The New Paper that Terence 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.

In June, NUS accepted a review committee’s recommendations of more stringent measures against sexual misconduct by its students.

This followed a public outcry over its handling of a Peeping Tom incident.

The new measures include a notation on the transcript of offenders, which can be removed on request three years after graduation.

As Terence’s disciplinary hearing occurred before the change, he will not have a notation on his transcript.

Image: Unsplash
Text: David Sun / The New Paper / September 2019

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