SINGAPORE: A student at the National University of Singapore (NUS) took upskirt videos of a colleague at the place he interned at, before trespassing into NUS hall toilets to film women showering.
When one of the victims caught him in the act, he fled and changed his clothes but was eventually arrested by police.
Joel Rasis Ismail pleaded guilty on Friday (Sep 11) to three counts of insulting a woman's modesty and one count of criminal trespass, with another seven charges taken into consideration for sentencing.
The 27-year-old man is currently serving a three-semester suspension by NUS and is not allowed on campus.
Despite the media reporting about the peeping tom incident in NUS in 2018 involving Ms Monica Baey around the same time, Joel committed the offences in March and May last year, said the prosecutor.
HE STARTED OUT FILMING WOMEN AT INTERNSHIP WORKPLACE
The court heard that Joel was between 23 and 26 at the time of the offences between 2016 and 2019, and is now a suspended fifth-year undergraduate in NUS.
At the time of the offences, he stayed at a hall in NUS. The first charges occurred in June 2016, when Joel was interning at an unnamed company.
He filmed two upskirt videos of a female colleague while she was talking to someone else, leaning in to listen to the conversation.
Joel began targeting women staying on campus at NUS in March 2019. He visited a female friend at her hall, despite knowing the floor was a women-only zone.
He illegally entered a cubicle in a women's toilet to relieve himself when he heard a woman entering an adjacent shower cubicle.
When he heard the sound of running water, he placed his phone at the gap between the cubicle partition and the toilet floor, and filmed the woman bathing.
He later left his cubicle undetected and kept the clip for a few days, rewatching it "for his pleasure and to boost his libido", said Deputy Public Prosecutor Andre Ong.
He admitted that rewatching the clip turned him on. He later deleted the clip.
When he committed this offence, he knew that there had been a similar peeping tom incident in NUS' Eusoff hall in 2018. The case, involving Ms Monica Baey, was reported around the time of his offence, and later led to widespread reforms on sexual misconduct cases in universities.
Joel reoffended again a few months later on May 11, 2019, entering the hall via a door that was left ajar. He went to visit a female friend and do his laundry despite knowing he was not allowed on the floor for women.
He could not find his friend and went to the laundry room to get his laundry before hearing the sound of running water from a ladies' toilet.
He took a video of a woman bathing naked for the "thrill" and "adrenaline", said the prosecutor, and exited the toilet to "review" his recording.
When he found that it was "unsuccessful", he re-entered the toilet and took another clip. The woman heard a "shuffling" sound and turned to see Joel's phone below the cubicle door.
She immediately shouted "who are you?" at him and opened the door in time to see Joel's back. He fled towards a staircase, and the woman dressed herself before telling the hall manager what had happened.
Joel fled the scene, retrieving his laundry and changing his clothes to evade detection and deleting the clip he had recorded.
However, closed-circuit television cameras around the hall captured him entering the women's toilet, fleeing, changing his attire and walking hurriedly away.
He was arrested a few hours later and initially denied any wrongdoing. A psychiatrist from the Institute of Mental Health classified Joel's mental condition at the time as a "transient voyeuristic sexual interest".
However, he found that Joel was not suffering from any psychiatric disorder, paraphilic disorder or voyeuristic disorder at the time of the offences.
SENTENCES BOTH SIDES ARE ASKING FOR
Deputy Public Prosecutor Andre Ong asked for at least 12 weeks' jail and a fine of S$1,500, saying that Joel had committed the offences in 2019 despite the Monica Baey incident that had caused public disquiet.
He said Joel's actions had increased in severity, from recording upskirt clips in public places to recording videos of women in a shower at the hall.
The defence asked instead for a short detention order and a community service order, or 10 weeks' jail if this was not granted.
He said Joel is "genuinely remorseful" and cooperative with police, and was previously seen for depression and insomnia.
He was "triggered" by the Eusoff Hall incident, and wishes to say he is "not a pervert", said the lawyer.
He said Joel is a "promising architect" and has lost "almost everything", with his family having to return the money for his scholarship, and with Joel unable to return to the hall, which was "his home for many years".
He will return to court for mitigation and sentencing on Sep 28.
NUS CONVENED BOARD OF DISCIPLINE FOR THE CASE
In response to CNA's queries, an NUS spokesperson said a board of discipline was convened in June 2019 to look into the voyeurism by Joel.
The board imposed disciplinary sanctions on Joel including suspension for three semesters, mandatory counselling and rehabilitation sessions. The sanctions will be part of his formal educational record at NUS, and Joel is currently serving the suspension and is not allowed on campus.
"In addition, NUS will look into whether there are any other offences that have been committed by Joel, and were not disclosed by him to the university," said the spokesperson, who added that another board of discipline could be convened if new information on other possible offences arises from court proceedings.
"NUS has enhanced the disciplinary framework for sexual misconduct offences since June 2019, including suspension and expulsion, as well as safety and security measures. It is also providing greater support for victims through the Victim Care Unit, and has introduced training for all staff and students to build a culture of respect," said the spokesperson, who said the university takes "a strong stand against sexual misconduct".
"Students who have breached NUS Statutes and Regulations face severe sanctions, including suspension and expulsion," he said.
For each charge of insulting a woman's modesty, Joel can be jailed for up to a year and fined.
For criminal trespass, he can be jailed for up to three months, fined up to S$500, or both.