SINGAPORE: A former international school teacher accused of molesting his colleague's wife was acquitted of a single charge of outrage of modesty on Friday (Jul 19).
District Judge Jasvender Kaur cleared former United World College of South East Asia (UWCSEA) teacher Henry Benjamin James, now 35, of the charge as the prosecution had not established its case beyond a reasonable doubt.
Mr James was accused of running his hand down the back of the older woman's waist and buttock at a school party at the Singapore Cricket Club past midnight on Jun 17, 2017.
The court heard during the trial that the woman, whose name is protected by gag order, then grabbed Mr James' wrist and accused him of molesting her.
Mr James denied it, retorting: "Look, I'm gay. I wouldn't have done that."
Defence lawyer Raji Ramason had sought to prove that the woman's perception may have been impaired by alcohol.
There were free-flow alcoholic drinks that night, but the woman said she drank only white wine spritzers.
The judge said that the woman's evidence was inconsistent.
She had originally said that Mr James had placed his hand on her back, moving down onto her waist and cupping her buttock cheek.
However, at a mediation session three days later, the married woman did not state that her buttock was cupped. Instead, she said Mr James' hand had "lingered" on her buttock cheek.
"It is plain that the complainant’s description of the alleged molest has been inconsistent and there is no explanation for the significant variations," said the judge.
WOMAN EVASIVE ABOUT ALCOHOL SHE HAD TAKEN
Turning to the issue of whether the woman's judgment had been impaired by alcohol, the judge said she was "very evasive" when asked if she had spilled wine on another attendee's dress.
She claimed that she had no memory of such an incident. However, a witness testified that he had to catch hold of the woman when she lost her balance.
"There was also evidence adduced from other defence witnesses which suggested that the victim may have had her perception affected by alcohol," said the judge.
"In my view, the complainant in all probability must have perceived some form of bodily contact but it was unlikely to have been of the exact nature that she had described," she said.
"I also do not find it safe to accept her evidence that she held onto the accused’s wrist whilst it was still on her buttock. In my view, as she did not turn around before she grabbed the accused’s wrist, it is probable that the contact with her may not have been by the accused but by someone else in the crowd."
"Accordingly, I do not find it safe to convict on the complainant’s testimony."
If he had been convicted of using criminal force to outrage the woman's modesty, Mr James could have been jailed for up to two years, fined, caned, or given any combination of these punishments.