An undergraduate student from the National University of Singapore (NUS), who molested a woman on three instances at Serangoon MRT station in September 2018, was only sentenced to probation due to his excellent grades in school.
On Wednesday (25 September), District Judge Jasvender Kaur rejected the prosecution’s call to put 23-year-old Terence Siow Kai Yuan behind bars, The New Paper (TNP) reported.
Defending her judgment, Judge Kaur mentioned a few times that the student – who touched the victim twice on her thigh and once at her private parts – as “minor intrusions”. She also added that based on the probation report, it was found that Siow is suitable for probation because his academic results show that he has the “potential to excel in life”, TNP said.
Siow, who pleaded guilty for one charge of outraging the modesty of a 28-year-old woman, was given 21 months of supervised probation. The other two similar charges were taken into consideration.
How it all happened
On 12 September 2018, Siow embarked on a North-East Line train heading towards Punggol station at around 11.30pm. He then spotted a woman with “very long legs” wearing a pair of shorts in the trains, and decided to sit beside her, the court documents stated.
Upon sitting next to her, the NUS undergrad “felt the urge” to touch her. He then used his left hand to touch the woman’s right thigh, and she immediately moved away from him and crossed her leg.
Following that, he placed his hand on her right thigh again, forcing her to shift to another seat before disembarking at Serangoon station.
However, Siow also got off at the same station and followed her as he had the urge to touch her again, the court heard. This time the student took a bolder step and used his finger to touch the woman’s buttocks over her short, while on an escalator.
This then caused the victim to shout at him as he walked away quickly towards the control station. She then went to a station police to notify that she had been molested and pointed to Siow as he was making his way out of the station.
She also made a police report about 1½ hours later, and the student was apprehended at Hougang Avenue three days later, TNP said.
Not the first time
Deputy Public Prosecutor Benedict Chan told in court on Wednesday that the prosecution objected to probation for Siow. Instead, he urged the court to jail him for six weeks, according to TNP.
Citing the probation report, DPP Chan stated that the student admitted to committing similar offences since he enrolled in NUS in 2016. He added that it was troubling to know that Siow was not able to remember the number of times he had committed such acts, calling them “deep-seated habit”.
“The accused knew it was wrong but was emboldened after previous successes. He only sought help after facing the university’s Board of Discipline,” he said.
Additionally, DPP Chan also pointed out that the NUS student was “normal in every sense” and does not have any disorder.
However, Judge Kaur questioned the prosecution’s position on sentencing, highlighting that Siow had “an inability to control his urges”, TNP stated.
“Looking at the nature of intrusion, I would say it is minor,” she explained.
DPP Chan then reminded that Siow had engaged in three such acts, in which Judge Kaur acknowledged it but repeated that “they were minor”.
When Chan mentioned that two of the acts committed by the student involved skin-to-skin contact, Judge Kaur said that it was “just a brief touch on the thigh”.
“He has learnt his lesson”
Pushing for the court to grant probation, Siow’s lawyer Raphael Louis said that the student will be graduating from NUS in one to two years. “He’s getting help, he wants to change, he has learnt his lesson,” Mr Louis said.
Agreeing to him, Judge Kaur 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.”
In addition to his 21 months of supervised probation, Siow must also perform 150 hours of community service, and his parents were bonded for S$5,000 to make sure his behaves well.
Speaking to Siow, the judge said, “I have every confidence you will not re-offend and hope you don’t disappoint me,” TNP reported.
For every offence under outrage of modesty, Siow could have been jailed for up to two years, fined and/or caned.
Victim disappointed with the sentence
Speaking to TNP, the victim – whose identity cannot be revealed because of a court-imposed gag order – said that she was “disappointed but not surprised” by the outcome of the case.
She also described Siow’s actions as “premeditated and calculated”, based on an article by Mothership. She also noted that she did not feel a sense of closure about the whole incident.
Apart from that, the woman also took to her Facebook to pen her thoughts about the judgement. She revealed that she has been offered S$5,000 to “compound the case for a lighter sentence”.
If that’s not all, she also addressed the case involving Siow as Brock Turner, an American sex offender whose sentence of six months’ jail for raping a woman created a public uproar as many viewed the sentence as too lenient.
“I’m not angry anymore. I am just disappointed that the courts are choosing to treat an adult who has committed multiple sexual offences (not only on me, but on others) as a child, but I am not surprised,” she wrote in the post.
Additionally, she also mentioned that Siow is a math tutor. Based on a local tuition agency called Champion Tutor, Siow also has a profile which stated that he is currently studying Applied Mathematics at NUS, Mothership reported.
However, the profile, which has now been taken down, also projected Siow’s cumulative average point (CAP) as 4.39 out of 5.
CAP shows the average grade point of all modules taken by a student. NUS’s website stated that 4.39 would generally signify a B+ to A- average.
A spokesperson from NUS said to TNP that Siow had faced disciplinary sanctions, which included suspension of candidature and mandatory counselling, at a Board of Discipline hearing last October.
The spokesperson also emphasised that NUS looks serious at student misconduct and that disciplinary sanctions will be part of the student’s formal education record at the university.
Separately, TNP noted that Siow is getting help from NUS to keep his sexual urges under control, and he is expected to return to school, but did not mention specifically the date.
Upon reading this news, many netizens were furious knowing that Siow was given such a lenient sentence for such a serious offence. Penning their thoughts in the Facebook pages of Mothership and ST, many of them questioned the verdict given by the judge and the law system in country that favours a certain group of people who are “rich and excels academically”.
Others wondered what’s the relevance between good grades and committing a serious crime, as being smart does not indicate one has a good character. They said that a sentence should be given based on the seriousness of the crime and not the academic level of an offender. Yvonne Tan asked, “What’s the use of an excellent bookworm when he do not know the basic principles of respecting others?! Grades does not equivalent to one’s capabilities to value adding contribution to the working society.”
A few questioned if the offender was a less educated person, then would he be given a harsher punishment?
A few asked what kind of message is the judge trying to send across to the people with this light sentence. Renjie Teo wrote, “What are we trying to teach the younger generation? That if you excel academically, you have special privileges from the law?”
On the other hand, Joseph Kee opined that the judge is wrong, urging the prosecution to appeal. “He attempted molest 3 times. What has academic result got to do with this? So a psle dropout will get a different sentence? Is this not double standard,” he wrote.