SINGAPORE: A 25-year-old man was sentenced to 10 months' jail and three strokes of the cane on Monday (Oct 25) for molesting a woman he had invited to study overnight with him at Singapore Management University.
Lee Yan Ru was found guilty in August of one count of using criminal force to outrage the modesty of the woman. During the trial, Lee had claimed that the victim consented to the acts and the defence accused the victim of lying.
Lee and the victim, who were acquainted on Instagram, met at SMU in the wee hours of Jan 8, 2019.
Throughout the night, Lee repeatedly made advances on the victim, who was not a student of the university and who said she was unfamiliar with the campus.
After watching a movie on Netflix and taking several smoke breaks, the pair lay down to sleep in separate parts of the study room.
The woman was woken up by Lee kneeling over her body and rubbing his private parts on her chest.
In his defence, Lee argued that the acts were “consensual” and that to him, the woman’s “stop did not mean stop”.
The defence in turn painted the victim as untruthful, pointing to the woman’s own social media accounts where she said she was good at lying.
In convicting Lee, District Judge Sharmila Sripathy-Shanaz said the main issue was whether the victim consented to the act, and if she did, whether Lee knew she did not consent.
She found the victim to be a truthful witness with "cogent and reliable" evidence on her interactions with Lee in the hours leading up to the molestation.
"In contrast, I find Mr Lee's account of growing intimacy and mutual playful banter between the parties to be nothing short of tortured," she said.
She said Lee's "repeated refrain about the purported mood between the parties and their growing intimacy" was "contrived" and materially at odds with portions of his police statement that was given voluntarily.
In response to the defence's argument that the victim's failure to leave during the night undermined her credibility and the cogency to her evidence, the judge disagreed.
She stressed that "just as there is no typical victim and no typical sexual offender, there is no typical reaction to sexual assault".
She added that "in any sexual interaction, consent is always specific to the act performed and specific to the parties involved".
The defence asked for not more than six months' jail or probation, while the prosecution called for 10 months' jail and three strokes of the cane.
In sentencing, Judge Sripathy-Shanaz said the degree of sexual exploitation was high in this case, while noting that it was not an archetypal case of molest.
She called it a clear case of "frotteurism", noting Lee's "wilful persistence" in continuing his acts even after the victim rejected them.
She rejected the defence's call for probation, saying she did not find Lee remorseful. On the defence's submissions about the doubts over Lee's ability to graduate, the judge said such "collateral damage" is to be expected.
"Quite simply put, a person who breaches criminal law must expect to face the consequences that follow under the criminal law," she said.
For using criminal force to outrage a person’s modesty, Lee could have been jailed up to two years, fined, caned, or given any combination of these penalties.
Lee intends to file an appeal against his conviction and sentence.