Private-hire driver gets jail and caning for molesting woman after offering her a ride home

Private-hire driver gets jail and caning for molesting woman after offering her a ride home

molest staged
File photo. 

SINGAPORE: After watching a drunk woman get propositioned by a man outside a hotel, a Ryde driver introduced himself as a Grab driver and offered the woman a lift home.

However, he later preyed on the woman himself, molesting her repeatedly in the back seat of his van.

Muhammad Fithri Bajudi, 36, was given 16 months' jail and three strokes of the cane on Monday (Mar 8) after pleading guilty to one count of outrage of modesty.

The court heard that Fithri was working as a private-hire driver with ride-sharing application Ryde at the time of the offence in June 2019.

He was waiting in his van for passengers at the driveway outside the Novotel hotel in Clarke Quay at about 4.30am when he saw the victim, a 39-year-old woman.

She had gone drinking with her friends from 3am that day and was waiting to take a Grab car home after vomiting. She was sitting on the floor outside Novotel when an unknown man approached her and asked her to go to a hotel with him, said the prosecutor.

Fithri saw the woman rebuffing the man's advances and noted that she did not seem sober. He called out to her from his van, before alighting to speak to her.

He offered to take her home, saying he was a Grab driver, and she agreed, thinking that he was being kind. She told him she could not walk, and he helped her to her van, where she fell asleep in the rear seat.

Instead of driving the woman home, Fithri drove to a heavy duty vehicle car park. On the way, he heard the woman say "must protect me" twice.

At about 5am in the car park, Fithri unzipped the woman's hoodie and molested her, kissing her face and neck and fondling her.

The woman woke up and began shouting and begging Fithri to stop. She said she wanted to go home and cried, saying: "You are supposed to take care of me, you are supposed to take care of me."

After about 20 minutes, Fithri stopped his assault as the woman was trying to open the door to leave. He dressed her and drove to a bus stop where the victim alighted.

She managed to take a photo of the van, before calling her husband to say she had been molested. Her husband lodged a police report.

The victim went to a hospital later that day, with the doctor noting that she was visibly distressed and upset and crying intermittently.

HIGH DEGREE OF SEXUAL EXPLOITATION

Deputy Public Prosecutor Niranjan Ranjakunalan asked for at least 18 months' jail and three strokes of the cane, citing the high degree of sexual exploitation, the skin-on-skin contact and how the accused had claimed to be a Grab driver performing a public transport service.

"He breached the trust of the intoxicated victim by performing various sexually depraved acts against her," he said, adding that the offence "clearly had a toll" on her.

Defence lawyer Kalaithasan Karuppaya asked for 12 months' jail instead, highlighting his client's "charitable nature", cooperation with the police and early plea of guilt.

In response, the prosecutor called into question "this alleged altruism with which (Fithri) approached the victim" and said he was "not candid and forthright" in giving his police statements.

The judge said there were numerous aggravating factors in the case. He said Fithri had approached the victim "with less than honourable intentions" and "pretended to act as a Good Samaritan" but preyed on her for "a considerable length of time".

He moderated the jail term slightly after taking into account the plea of guilt, but maintained that caning is clearly warranted in light of the degree of intrusion.

For outraging the woman's modesty, Fithri could have been jailed for up to two years, fined, caned, or given any combination of these punishments.

Source: CNA/ll(rw)

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