SINGAPORE: A man who carried a 23-year-old woman into a taxi and took her from one hotel to another was found guilty on Friday (Nov 29) of abduction, but acquitted of molesting her.
Shamsul Abdullah, 53, had claimed trial to one charge of abducting the woman, whose identity is protected by gag order, and two charges of outraging her modesty.
He did not know the woman, and was outside a hotel in Lavender when he saw her, the court heard over the trial.
However, there were no vacancies in that hotel and she purportedly asked him to take her home, claimed defence lawyers Sadhana Rai and Marjorie Kong.
Shamsul was accused of carrying the victim into a taxi outside Hotel 81 at 85 Lavender Street at about 1.20am on May 15, 2016. He then directed the cab driver to go to another hotel in Balestier, before redirecting the same driver to the victim's home.
While in the cab on the way to the flat, Shamsul allegedly lifted the woman's dress and molested her. He was accused of molesting her again at a void deck at about 1.45am.
However, District Judge Tan Jen Tse cleared Shamsul of the molestation charges, saying it was not safe to convict him based solely on the "highly intoxicated" victim's testimony, with no other corroborating evidence.
"It is undisputed that the victim was in a highly intoxicated state," said the judge. "I do not regard her testimony to be unduly convincing."
He added that the woman had drifted in and out of consciousness, with a psychiatrist testifying that she had likely been suffering from an alcoholic blackout.
The taxi driver's evidence did not support parts of the victim's testimony, saying that the woman and Shamsul were seated on different sides of the cab whereas she said she had been lying on top of Shamsul when molested.
However, the judge found Shamsul guilty of abduction, noting that his claims that he had wanted to tell the victim's address directly to the taxi driver were not supported by the cabby's evidence.
The taxi did not bring the victim straight to her block, said the judge, rejecting Shamsul's claims that he had directed the cabby to the second hotel as he did not know her address at first.
"It is telling that in his statement to the police, the accused failed to mention the material fact that the taxi had been diverted to the (hotel)," said the judge. "It is clear that when he carried her to the taxi, he did not intend to take her home."
Shamsul's lawyers, appointed under the Criminal Legal Aid Scheme, said he has a stood down charge of theft, which he also intends to contest.
FACES FRESH CHARGES COMMITTED DURING THE TRIAL
The court heard that he also faces several fresh charges, including drug-related ones, that he allegedly committed while the trial was ongoing.
He was not offered bail because of these allegations.
The defence tried to apply for the state to pay for an expert they had called during the trial, but Judge Tan said he found this to be "a most peculiar" application that he has not seen before.
"I'm not too sure it's a good thing to start a precedent," he said. "Surely you got clearance from the CLAS scheme (before engaging the expert)."
The lawyers said they would file submissions accordingly in their bid, while the prosecution said they would seek views on this for the next mention.
He will return to court for mitigation and sentencing on Dec 18.
The penalties for abduction are a maximum seven years' jail, fine, caning, or any combination of these. However, Shamsul cannot be caned as he is above 50.