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Singapore

Lawyer fined for molesting 3 women in a pub after drinks

Lawyer fined for molesting 3 women in a pub after drinks

Devandran Karunakaran, 40, the managing partner of law firm Ince Singapore. (Photo: Ince website)

SINGAPORE: After having some drinks with his clients, a lawyer molested three women in a pub, before hurling vulgarities at the bar manager and threatening to make him lose his job.

Devandran Karunakaran, managing partner of law firm Ince Singapore, was fined S$15,000 on Tuesday (Nov 19) for his actions.

He pleaded guilty to three charges of molestation and one charge under the Protection from Harassment Act, with three other charges taken into consideration.

The name of the pub and its location were redacted from court documents due to gag orders protecting the victims' identities.

The court heard that Karunakaran had gone to the pub on May 16 last year and had drinks with two clients.

After having more drinks and becoming intoxicated, Karunakaran went up to the first victim who was alone in the pub.

He stood behind her and stroked her back and waist, moving both hands up and down, said Deputy Public Prosecutor Tan Yen Seow.

The victim, a 48-year-old woman identified as Ms H, moved away and shouted: "Don't touch me!"

Karunakaran muttered incoherently and walked away before approaching another two women, identified as Ms P and Ms K, near a makeshift deejay stand at the upper level of the pub. 

He placed his arm on one woman's shoulder and another arm behind the other woman's back and said: "Hey! What's up?"

Ms P, a 28-year-old woman who was working as a guest deejay there, said she felt disgusted and tried to move Karunakaran's arm off her.

However, he stroked her body from her shoulder to her waist, while stroking Ms K's body from her waist to her buttock.

Ms P immediately leaned away and pushed Karunakaran's arm away from her waist, while Ms K took a step away from him.

A staff member of the pub saw what happened and went over. He told Karunakaran that his behaviour was unacceptable and asked him to leave the deejay stand.

Karunakaran ignored him and tried to speak to Ms K and pull the 30-year-old woman towards him.

The staff member escorted Karunakaran away from the deejay stand and told the bartender to inform the bar manager of the situation.

The bar manager spoke to Ms H, who said Karunakaran had molested her thrice that night. He then told Karunakaran that a patron had alleged that he had touched her inappropriately.

HE CURSED AT BAR MANAGER, THREATENED TO MAKE HIM LOSE HIS JOB

Karunakaran cursed at him and said: "Who is the one who say I touched her?"

He then challenged the bar manager, saying he would not leave, and asked if he knew who he was. He threatened to make the bar manager lose his job, and said he was a lawyer.

Sensing that the matter might escalate further, the bar manager escorted Karunakaran out of the pub with the help of a security officer.

Outside, Karunakaran hurled vulgarities at the bar manager at least 10 times and insisted on wanting to return to the pub to drink more alcohol.

The security officer called the police and Karunakaran was later arrested.

The prosecution asked for a custodial or short jail term, but did not indicate a specific sentence in its submissions.

He said Karunakaran had "brazenly violated three women in a pub", committing six offences against them in his drunken stupor. 

He quoted a report by the Singapore Police Force in February this year that molestation offences in nightspots and public transport remain a concern.

"From 2017 to 2018, there had been an increase of 11.9 per cent in total outrage of modesty (OM) cases, and an increase of 34.3 per cent of OM cases at nightspots," he said. "As recently as October 2019, the SPF informed that OM cases remain a 'key concern' for the police."

For each charge of outrage of modesty, Karunakaran could have been jailed for up to two years, fined, caned, or given any combination of these punishments. 

In an email to CNA, the Law Society of Singapore said Karunakaran is a registered foreign lawyer but not a member of the society.

In response to queries by CNA, Ince Singapore said it has parted ways with Karunakaran. 

"Following the court’s decision, Devandran Karunakaran’s position at Ince has been terminated with immediate effect and he no longer works at the firm. We take the behaviour and ethical conduct of all of the group’s partners and staff extremely seriously."

Source: CNA/ll(cy)/ad

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