SINGAPORE: A district judge on Friday (Jan 10) granted a young man accused of illicitly filming 11 women his request to leave Singapore to attend his second school term at a top British university.
The 22-year-old undergraduate and the university cannot be named due to gag orders preventing the publication of anything that might identify the victims.
After mulling the matter for two days, District Judge Adam Nakhoda granted the accused his request to leave jurisdiction, stating that the man intends to claim trial, "as is his right".
"It is not for me at this time to decide if he is guilty or not," said the judge. "I agree it's somewhat speculative to say that the family would agree to support the accused as a fugitive, should he decide to abscond. There is no evidence at this time to support this."
Deputy Public Prosecutors Foo Shi Hao and Tan Zhi Hao had argued against allowing the application, saying the man was from a family of "substantial means" who would be able to support the accused's comfortable lifestyle abroad if he absconded.
The young man faces 20 charges in all and is accused of filming at least 11 women, capturing images of their private parts and faces over three years.
He is accused of luring several victims to his house, where he had secretly installed cameras.
While stressing that the offences are serious ones, the judge noted that it was not the first time the accused had applied to leave the country.
The accused was previously allowed to leave the country last year, when he faced only two charges for offences committed when he was 18 or 19.
The accused would have been aware that if he came back, he could be tried for more offences that he had committed later as an adult and jailed. But he did not abscond, said the judge.
"It would be reasonable to allow the accused to leave jurisdiction to continue his education, at least for the next school term," said the judge.
He ordered that the bail amount be doubled to S$40,000 if the accused goes overseas.
The prosecution said they intend to file a criminal motion in High Court against the decision allowing the accused to leave the country.
They applied for the judge to stay the leaving of jurisdiction until then, which means that the accused cannot leave the country to attend school until after the criminal motion is heard. This could be after the school term starts.
If found guilty, the man faces up to a year's jail, a fine or both per charge of insulting a woman's modesty.