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Two men get jail, caning for molesting Grab driver on expressway

Neo Wei Meng and Goh Suet Hong have appealed against their convictions and sentences for molesting the 28-year-old Grab driver.

Two men get jail, caning for molesting Grab driver on expressway

Neo Wei Meng (left) and Goh Suet Hong (right) arriving at the State Courts on Jul 5, 2022. (Photo: TODAY/Ili Nadhirah Mansor)

SINGAPORE: Two men convicted of molesting their Grab driver while travelling on the expressway were on Thursday (Jul 7) sentenced to jail and caning.

Neo Wei Meng, 41, was given one year and two months' jail and three strokes of the cane, while Goh Suet Hong, 40, received a year's jail and two strokes of the cane.

Earlier this week, each man was found guilty of one count of using criminal force to outrage the modesty of the then 28-year-old victim.

The victim picked Goh and Neo up in his Grab car at Neil Road after midnight on Nov 12, 2018. They told him he looked "very cute".

They then carried out what a magistrate called a "group sexual assault" against the victim by touching him inappropriately, including his private parts and nipples.

They did this while the victim drove from Neil Road to Neo's home in Hougang, ignoring his repeated pleas to stop. This was the first leg of the journey.

After Neo alighted, Goh then moved to the front passenger seat and continued the assault.

Goh touched the victim's private parts and kissed his lips as he drove to Goh's home in Punggol. This was the second leg of the journey.

The offences took place in a car along the Central Expressway (CTE) between 1.18am and 3.03am on Nov 12, 2018.

PROSECUTION AMENDS SENTENCE

Deputy Public Prosecutor David Menon sought 14 to 15 months' jail and three strokes of the cane for Neo.

He initially sought nine to 10 months' jail and no caning for Goh, but raised this to 12 to 13 months and two strokes of the cane after the court sought clarification on the sentencing position.

Mr Menon explained on Thursday that Goh's prolonged contact with the victim's private parts, even though it was not skin-to-skin contact, was an aggravating factor that warranted caning.

He argued that the court was also allowed to take into consideration Goh's conduct during the first leg of the journey. Goh was only charged for his assault of the victim during the second leg.

The sentence sought for Neo was higher in order to reflect the higher degree of sexual intrusion from making skin-on-skin contact with the victim's private parts during the first leg.

Defence counsel Kalaithasan Karuppaya asked for leniency and mercy, and sentences at the lower range of the penalties sought by the prosecution.

VICTIM "TRAUMATISED"

Delivering his sentence, Magistrate Hairul Hakkim Kuthibutheen said the experience of being "repeatedly and mercilessly" molested had left an "indelible mark" on the victim.

At trial, the victim testified that he took about a month after the assault to resume his work as a Grab driver, and even then only for a few hours each day.

The victim, who now delivers food, has said that he felt "traumatised" and was unable to face strangers, the magistrate noted.

He had told the court: "I do not dare to face the customer. So what I do is I just hand the food at the door and run away."

The magistrate took as aggravating factors the victim's status as a public transport worker, Goh and Neo's state of voluntary intoxication at the time and the fact that they assaulted the victim while he was driving, endangering him and other road users.

He said that Neo's offending was aggravated by his prolonged skin-to-skin contact with the victim's private parts.

He said that while Goh's offending involved indirect contact with the victim's private parts, it was still prolonged contact and Goh also kissed the victim for about three minutes.

The magistrate also considered the immediate background to Goh's offences, which was the group sexual assault with Neo during the first leg of the journey.

He also considered Goh's actions for which he had not been charged, including making skin-to-skin contact with the victim's private parts during the first leg.

Magistrate Hairul Hakkim emphasised that he was only empowered to sentence Goh for his offences during the second leg for which he was charged.

He said it was "not the role of the courts" to question why the prosecution chose not to charge Goh for his actions during the first leg, or to include details of his conduct during both legs in a single charge.

He added that if either had been done, Goh could have received a heavier sentence than Neo.

"One could say that Goh has done what Neo did, which is to touch the victim's (private parts) skin-to-skin, plus more in the second leg," said the magistrate.

Both Goh and Neo have filed appeals against their convictions and sentences.

They could have been jailed for up to two years jail, fined, caned or any combination of these punishments for using criminal force to outrage a person's modesty.

Source: CNA/dv(ac)

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