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Chief Justice orders voyeur from top UK university to be named after 11 victims pushed to lift gag order

Chief Justice orders voyeur from top UK university to be named after 11 victims pushed to lift gag order

Colin Chua Yi Jin is seen outside the Supreme Court on Sep 24, 2021. (Photo: Hanidah Amin)

SINGAPORE: The Chief Justice on Friday (Sep 24) ordered that a Singaporean voyeur at a top university in the United Kingdom be named, after 11 of his victims stepped forward to push for the gag order to be lifted.

This comes after a long-drawn battle between the prosecutors and defence counsel Kalidass Murugaiyan to have the offender, 23-year-old Colin Chua Yi Jin, named.

This is a departure from usual cases involving sex offences, where gag orders are usually applied to protect the identities of victims. When the accused person is linked to the victims, the gag order can also extend to their identity although the intent is purely to protect the victims.

Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon laid out clearly the principles behind the gag order, and stated unequivocally that the accused's interests in this "count for nothing", especially after the 11 victims stated they wanted to waive their usual rights in order to have him named.

"Really, the person who's asking for the gag order is your client, because he wants to take advantage of the protection that the gag order affords him," Chief Justice Menon told the defence lawyer.

The names of the victims as well as the schools they attended remain under the modified gag order and cannot be published.

Chua had pleaded guilty in July to seven charges of insulting the modesty of women and an eighth charge of possessing obscene films.

WHAT HE DID

He took videos up women's skirts and of victims in the shower from 2014 to 2015 when he was in junior college in Singapore, from 2016 to 2018 when he was a full-time national serviceman, and from October 2018 when he was studying at a university in the UK.

Chua would host gatherings for his friends at his home and invite victims there but leave a video-recording device in his toilet beforehand to film them. Some of the videos wound up on pornography sites and were viewed thousands of times.

In total, Chua estimated the number of voyeuristic videos he filmed to be "maybe three digit". He said he committed the offences when he felt stressed due to school or work, and felt that filming the victims "was an addiction" to him.

Colin Chua Yi Jin is seen outside the Supreme Court on Sep 24, 2021. (Photo: Hanidah Amin)

He filmed one 18-year-old victim after inviting her to share a hotel room with him to rest after prom night in December 2015, but filmed her showering.

The nude video began circulating online, and the principal of the girl's JC informed her about it in early 2016. The video, which shows her in her prom dress, was still circulating as of August 2020 and had been viewed at least 177,000 times.

Another victim was 21 when she took up Chua's offer for a tour of the university in the UK. She was filmed when using his toilet. 

At Chua's guilty plea hearing, the prosecution and defence tussled over the lifting of the gag order, and the district judge ruled in the prosecution's favour, for Chua to be named.

However, the defence sought a stay of the order and applied to the High Court against the decision.

CHIEF JUSTICE ON THE PURPOSE OF GAG ORDERS

On Friday, Chief Justice Menon opened by stating that the crux of the issue was: "Whose interests are we protecting?"

"We all know the reason we have to make a gag order," he said. "It's a detraction from the principles of open justice ... there is, in a sense, another interest, which is the protection of victims."

"Why are we keen to protect victims? Because we don't want to make their punishment worse ... we don't want to discourage them from making reports against offenders. We don't want to make them afraid of invoking the ... processes of the law," said the Chief Justice.

"Where the victims have come forward to say - actually, I am feeling guilty because I may not have been able to help other victims because of the gag order, and I have introduced these other victims to the offender, and I am suffering because I feel I am complicit in this by having to stay quiet, how can we logically extend the gag order in this case?" he asked defence lawyer Mr Murugaiyan.

"When really, the person who's asking for the gag order is your client, because he wants to take advantage of the protection that the gag order affords him," said the Chief Justice.

"That is not the purpose of the gag order. The gag order has nothing to do with the benefit of the accused person. It is entirely driven by the protection of the victims."

He added that the victims spoke "with one voice" and accepted the risk of being identified themselves if the accused were to be named.

"They accept that risk, but they also want to purge the guilt and fear they had that others have suffered and may still be suffering - because of the gag order, they may not even be aware of what's going on. When you look at that perspective, it's very difficult to see how your client can even raise this application."

DEFENCE RAISES 12TH UNKNOWN VICTIM

Mr Murugaiyan tried arguing that not all of the victims had been unanimous at first, and said the prosecutors had "created the appearance" of this by withdrawing some charges.

There is also a 12th victim who is unknown, and who has not indicated her position, he said.

The Chief Justice responded that this may be true, but she was not relevant to the proceedings as she is not a witness to them.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Nicholas Khoo called the defence's application a rather "self-serving" and "borderline frivolous" one, and asked for the defence to pay costs of S$2,000.

Chief Justice Menon dismissed the application by the defence against the lower court judge's decision to name Chua.

He said Chua was "seeking only his own benefit" in a case "advanced in the guise of protecting" either existing victims or other unknown victims.

He ordered Chua to pay costs of S$2,000 for his motion.

Chua has not yet been sentenced, but a district court heard on Monday that he was found not suitable for probation. He will next return to court in October.

Source: CNA/ll(gr)

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