Judge orders undergrad facing voyeur charges to stay in Singapore, but retains gag order on his identity

Judge orders undergrad facing voyeur charges to stay in Singapore, but retains gag order on his identity

Gavel 06
Photo illustration of a gavel. (Photo: Jeremy Long)

SINGAPORE: A judge on Thursday (Jan 16) ordered a young man enrolled in a top British university to stay in Singapore, reversing his earlier decision to allow the voyeurism suspect to leave the country for school.

New evidence in the form of text messages to a friend show that the accused intends to abscond, said District Judge Adam Nakhoda.

He found that the accused's conversation with his friend "evinces an intention to remain overseas", and noted that the accused "was concerned that his future may be adversely affected if he remained in Singapore".

He also ruled that the gag order on the 22-year-old man's identity be retained, saying that two of the 12 known women he allegedly filmed did not consent to having the order lifted.

Identifying the accused means there is a risk that the victims could be identified too, the judge found.

The undergraduate faces 20 charges and is accused of illicitly filming at least 12 women over three years, luring several of them to his home where he had pre-installed cameras.

He had been given two charges in October and was allowed then to leave the country for school.

His second application to leave, filed this month, was blocked by the prosecution against the backdrop of more charges levelled against him.

Explaining his new decisions, Judge Nakhoda said he found that the accused was a flight risk after he disclosed his intention to remain overseas in newly uncovered text messages with a friend.

"The primary purpose of the gag order being extended to cover the name of the accused is to protect the identity of the victims," said Judge Nakhoda.

"At the hearing on Oct 2, the gag order was extended to cover the accused's identity because, based on the location and circumstances that the offences were allegedly committed, there was a chance that the identity of the victims would be exposed."

This factor has not changed, said the judge. Although 10 of the 12 known victims want the accused to be identified, this does not amount to waiving their rights to anonymity, he said.

"I decline to lift the gag order over the accused's name because there are two victims who have not unequivocally agreed to the risk that their identities will become known," said the judge.

BACKGROUND OF THE CASE

The twin decisions over the gag order and the leaving of jurisdiction came after lengthy arguments from both the accused's defence lawyer and the prosecution

The prosecution argued that he was a flight risk with a "master plan" to abscond, while the defence stated that he had not yet been found guilty and that he has shown that he will return to court for hearings.

A new development unfolded on Tuesday as Deputy Public Prosecutors Foo Shi Hao and Tan Zhi Hao presented evidence in the form of text messages and an affidavit from a newly discovered victim who had exchanged texts with the accused the night he was charged in October. 

In his texts with the victim, who is also his friend, the accused said he "honestly might not come back" and discussed the pros and cons of staying in Singapore and absconding, with the uncertainty of gaining asylum.

The prosecutors had also applied on Tuesday for the court to lift the gag order on the accused, saying 10 of the 12 victims wanted him identified and that it was in the public's interest.

The gag order on the accused had been imposed during initial hearings, after the defence argued that the victims could likely be identified if the accused was identified. 

The prosecution did not object at that time to the imposition of the gag order on the accused, who intends to claim trial.

He is set to return to court for a pre-trial conference on Jan 28.

If found guilty, he faces a maximum year's jail, a fine, or both per charge of insulting a woman's modesty.

Source: CNA/ll(hm)

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