SINGAPORE: In less than two days, tens of thousands of people have signed an online petition calling for signatories to take a stand against what was termed as "favouritism" for sex offenders.
The change.org petition comes after a National University of Singapore (NUS) student was sentenced to probation on Wednesday (Sep 25) for molesting a woman at an MRT station. The petition was started on Thursday afternoon, and by 9.30am on Saturday, it had gathered more than 40,000 signatures.
The student, 23-year-old Terence Siow Kai Yuan, was charged with using criminal force with intent to outrage the modesty of his victim.
He was on Wednesday given 21 months of supervised probation with certain conditions. He also has to perform 150 hours of community service and attend an offence-specific treatment programme.
His parents also furnished a S$5,000 bond to ensure their son's good behaviour during probation.
In response to CNA queries, NUS said that it convened a disciplinary board in October last year to look into the student's conduct.
"Disciplinary sanctions, including suspension of candidature and mandatory counselling, were imposed on the student concerned," it said in a statement, adding that these form part of Siow's formal educational record at the university.
"Security measures are also in place to safeguard the well-being of our students on our campuses," it added.
READ: Shanmugam ‘surprised’ at verdict in the case of NUS student molester, says AGC intends to appeal
In the incident, which took place on Sep 12 last year, Siow was travelling on the North-East Line towards Punggol MRT station when he saw his victim, whose identity is protected by gag order.
The case's statement of facts, admitted to by Siow, said: "The accused noticed that the victim was wearing shorts and had 'very long legs' before deciding to sit beside the victim."
He "felt the urge" to touch the victim, and then used his left hand to touch her right thigh. She shifted away from him and crossed her legs, but Siow used his left hand to again touch her thigh.
The victim quickly moved one seat away and then got off at Serangoon MRT station.
Siow saw her alighting and followed her as "he felt the urge to touch her again", said the statement of facts. He followed her to an ascending escalator and stood behind her, before using his finger to touch her buttocks over her shorts.
She immediately turned around and shouted at him.
Siow quickly walked to the control station, and the victim told the station officer she had been molested, pointing to Siow. Siow left the station and the station officer notified the police.
A report in the New Paper said District Judge Jasvender Kaur rejected the prosecution's call for a custodial sentence.
The judge on Wednesday also reportedly described Siow's offences as "minor intrusions", and said that the probation report found him suitable for probation as his academic results showed he had the "potential to excel in life".
The penalties for using criminal force to outrage the modesty of a person is a maximum jail term of two years, fine, caning, or any combination of these punishments.
Describing Siow's sentence as a "step backwards", the petition said: "It is time to take a stand against favouritism for sex offenders, just because their educational background suggests they have a bright future."
CNA was not at Siow's sentencing. In response to requests from CNA, the State Courts has said a copy of the judge's comments is not available.
On Friday, the Attorney-General's Chambers said it has filed an appeal to the High Court in relation to Siow's sentence.
"We are unable to comment further as the matter is before the courts," said a spokesperson.