SINGAPORE: A man who holds a PhD from the National University of Singapore (NUS) and has been lauded for his contributions to geo-technological sciences was jailed 18 days on Tuesday (Feb 9) for molesting a woman on a train.
Shen Ruifu, 54, made donations to women's rights group AWARE Singapore after the offence, the court heard.
He pleaded guilty to one charge of using criminal force on a 39-year-old woman to outrage her modesty on a train. The act took place on the journey between Ang Mo Kio and Bishan MRT stations on Dec 12, 2018.
The court heard that the victim boarded a train at Ang Mo Kio at about 7.40am on Dec 12, 2018. She stood near the door and began looking at her phone to pass time on her journey.
Shen, who was already in the train carriage, stood on the victim's right and faced a different direction. About five minutes after she boarded the train, the victim felt something scratching her inner thigh.
She looked down and saw Shen's hand touching her inner thigh over her skirt with a scratching motion. She grabbed his hand and shouted for help. They got to the next train station and alighted, with a male commuter following them to help the victim.
They handed Shen over to an SMRT employee, and Shen was subsequently arrested.
Shen's lawyer said his client had not specifically targeted the victim and that it was a spur-of-the-moment offence with no skin-to-skin contact. This was his first brush with the law, he added.
District Judge Marvin Bay said he was "mindful of Shen's contributions to geo-technological sciences and the construction industry in this country".
According to an NUS website, Shen graduated with a bachelor's degree in civil engineering from Tsinghua University before obtaining a master's and PhD in geo-technical engineering from NUS.
He was awarded a medal for the best Master of Engineering thesis and received the best young researcher paper award at a seminar in civil engineering.
Judge Bay also noted the donations Shen made to AWARE after the offence, and noted his clean record and plea of guilt.
However, he said the offence was committed in the public transport network, and it was "essential that all commuters should feel safe and protected from unwanted groping, touches, scratches or other acts of molestation while using our public transport system".
DONATION NOT A "GET OUT OF JAIL FREE" CARD: AWARE
In response to queries from CNA, AWARE said on Tuesday that it is not uncommon for survivors of sexual violence to request that perpetrators donate to AWARE as a gesture of contrition.
These donations go towards AWARE's work in supporting survivors of sexual assault in Singapore, it said.
"At the same time, however, a donation to AWARE should not be viewed as a 'get out of jail free' card (or in this case, a 'reduction of jail term' card)," said AWARE.
"Shen’s donation has been used as a mitigating factor in his sentencing, but token payments of this nature shouldn’t be permitted to be suggestive of remorse unless specifically requested by the survivor," it said.
"Now that we understand the circumstances surrounding Shen’s donation, we are happy to return the amount to him if he wishes," it said.
The group does not disclose individual donation amounts.
AWARE also said that it was "disappointed" to hear that Judge Bay was mindful of Shen's contributions to geo-technological sciences and the construction industry during the sentencing.
"Shen's professional achievements are not relevant and should not be considered in cases where harm has been caused to another person."
For outrage of modesty, Shen could have been jailed for up to two years, fined, caned, or given any combination of these punishments.