The offence and the verdict (Trigger warning: Molestation)
NUS student Terence Siow was on the train when he noticed a woman with “very long legs” sitting down. Siow sat beside her and touched her thigh. Despite the woman shifting away, he touched her thigh again. After the woman alighted, Siow followed her to the escalator, where he touched her buttocks. She shouted at Siow and informed a station officer, but Siow managed to flee. She filed a police report shortly after.
Last Wednesday, Siow was sentenced to 21 months of supervised probation, 150 hours of community service, and a compulsory treatment programme. His parents were also bonded for $5000. District Judge Jasvender Kaur described Siow’s offences as “minor intrusions” as he had an “inability to control his urges.” She cited “strong propensity to reform” and academics results showing that he had the “potential to excel in life” as reasons for the light sentence. Prosecutors objected and asked for a sentence of six weeks’ jail, but were denied by the judge. NUS also punished Siow with suspension and mandatory counselling.
An online petition against the ruling has as of publishing date racked up over 70,000 signees. The petition decries “favoritism for sex offenders” with an educated background, with many signees bashing the judge’s decision as enabling sexual misconduct. The more edgy ones among us have taken to making satirical memes about the issue.
In a Facebook post, Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam empathised with the victim and disagreed with the verdict, a view he shares with the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC). He also said that the AGC intends to appeal the verdict. However, he emphasized that we should avoid attacking the judge, and respect the Appeal Court’s decision.
The victim herself, Karmen Siew, said on Facebook that she was disappointed with the verdict, highlighting that Siow had admitted to committing similar acts since he enrolled in NUS in 2016 and could not remember the number of times he had done so.
All eyes are now on the Appeal Court and how they will choose to balance the tenets of rehabilitation, deterrence and retribution.