Minister for Law and Home Affairs, Mr K Shanmugam has indicated that he was “surprised” by the verdict in a molest case where the perpetrator was only given probation for repeatedly molesting a woman. He further stated that the Attorney General’s Chambers were of a similar view and were going to appeal the decision. He went on to defend the judge, stating that “judges are doing their duty, to the best of their abilities.
I have no issue with Mr Shanmugam calling for restraint in casting aspersions on the judge. However, something rather disturbing has been highlighted in this case – the issue of privilege. Should a perpetrator’s academic results really be taken into consideration while sentencing? What has it got to do with the crime he committed?
The Judge in question has taken a punt to assume that the perpetrator had the “potential to excel in life”. This is a subjective assumption. On what basis is this assumption made? What is fact however is that he did repeatedly molest a woman. Why is subjective assumption taken into consideration when we have the objective fact of repeated molestation? Just because he had good results does not mean the gravity of the crime is lessened?
Also, the Judge used the phrase “minor intrusions”. How can following someone off the MRT just to touch them again after two previous attempts be considered “minor”? Perhaps we should be investing in some training for judges to understand things from the victim’s perspective? I certainly don’t consider being followed out of the train minor. I think it is downright scary! If the woman in question had not been brave enough to shout at him, what else would have happened?
This reminds me of the rape incident in America where the perpetrator’s sentence was lower because he was similarly thought to have the potential for future success. This incident caused international outcry. This perpetrator, Brock Turner, was also highlighted by the victim in a public post that she made following the judgement of her case.
It is scary that this is happening in Singapore after the publicity that this American case generated. It is important to note that the judge in this case, Mr Persky was recalled and no longer hears criminal cases.
I am not suggesting that anyone should go on a witch hunt against the judge in question. But I do think that Mr Shanmugam could have been more sympathetic to the outrage that the public feels. Just because you have good results does not mean that you are less of a molester. The two things are mutually exclusive and this needs to be made clear. There can be no suggestion that molesters (or any other criminal for that matter) should get less time for good academic results or vice versa.