SINGAPORE: A man who molested an air stewardess on a Scoot flight from India to Singapore was sentenced to four months' jail on Friday (Sep 27).
Singapore permanent resident and Indian national Vijayan Mathan Gopal intends to appeal against the conviction, his lawyer said.
Vijayan was found guilty after a trial in which he was charged with three counts of outraging the 22-year-old victim's modesty while on the Singapore-controlled aircraft from Cochin, India, to Singapore on Nov 2, 2017.
The victim had testified during the trial that she had gone to Vijayan to tell him firmly not to press the call light button for assistance again, after he did so repeatedly.
He stroked her face and said "you are so beautiful", before cupping her face with his hands.
This made her feel "angry, uncomfortable and very disgusted", but she could not push him away because he was a passenger, and instead leaned back and raised her voice, saying: "Sir, sir, sir."
He replied: "Do not throw your anger at me", and "I'm the boss of this flight".
The victim tried to stand up but Vijayan continued grabbing her right arm. When she tried again, he put his hand on her right thigh with great force.
When she finally managed to get to her feet by grabbing the arm rest, she felt Vijayan touch her by placing his palm on her left buttock.
She later reported the incident to the plane captain and submitted a report to the airport police.
NO READY ESCAPE FOR MOLEST VICTIMS ON PLANE: JUDGE
District Judge Salina Ishak noted that the victim was the cabin crew member in charge of the flight, with 96 passengers packed into a confined space over several hours.
She had to supervise air stewardesses and stewards under her charge, and had to deal with a medical emergency, a dispute Vijayan had with another stewardess, and multiple call light button requests from the accused during the flight.
The judge said that air travel is "a high-pressure environment", with no ready escape for a molest victim aboard an aircraft.
She added that she had taken into account the degree of sexual exploitation, the circumstances and the physical or psychological harm caused.
The judge said there had been "no intrusion into private parts" for all three charges, and that while the victim was shaken after the incident, there had been no evidence to show psychological harm.
Vijayan had claimed trial and his defence was one of bare denial, claiming that the victim and her colleague had fabricated the allegations after his complaints of poor service.
The judge noted that he had cooperated with police investigations and attended all necessary court hearings.
The defence said Vijayan would be appealing against the conviction, and there was a tussle between both sides over the bail amount, with the judge eventually increasing bail to S$15,000 pending appeal.
The former quality assurance engineer has since lost his job, and has no family members in Singapore, the court heard.
For each charge of molesting the victim, he could have been jailed for up to two years, fined, caned, or given any combination of these penalties.