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Serial offender made up charity ruse to molest women's feet, gets jail

Serial offender made up charity ruse to molest women's feet, gets jail

Tan Boon Hwee at the State Courts on March 25, 2022. (Photo: TODAY/Aaron Low)

SINGAPORE: A 28-year-old woman was left traumatised on her first Tinder date when the man made up an excuse to take photos of her feet and started molesting them at MacRitchie Reservoir.

He later insisted she meet him again, turning aggressive and threatening her when she grew uncomfortable and asked for the photos that he took of her.

The man, Tan Boon Hwee, 32, was jailed for two weeks and five days on Wednesday (Apr 6) after admitting to two counts of outrage of modesty. Another charge under the Protection from Harassment Act was considered for sentencing.

The identities of Tan's two victims are protected by gag order. Aside from the woman he met on Tinder, Tan also molested the feet of an 18-year-old store assistant.

"BAREFOOT WALKING SOCIETY"

The court heard that the first victim agreed to go out on a date with Tan, who went by another name on the Tinder dating app, on Jul 16, 2017.

They were seated on a bench near the reservoir when Tan, who is unemployed, told her he was part of a charity known as the "Barefoot Walking Society". He asked if he could take photos of the victim's feet.

When she pressed for more details about the society, he said it was a "low key" organisation and insisted it was genuine, showing her other photos he had taken of women's feet.

"In actuality, the accused was sexually aroused by feet and wanted an opportunity to sexually touch and photograph (the victim's) feet," said Deputy Public Prosecutor Chong Kee En.

The victim believed Tan, and he began to pretend to adjust her feet to take the photo. He used the opportunity to "slowly touch and caress the soles of her feet" and rub the tips of her toes.

He also commented on how "cute" the victim's toes were and asked if she worked out, stated court documents. This went on for five minutes.

The victim started to feel uncomfortable and disgusted and asked Tan to stop. He did so, but then began to question the victim on her relationships with men. He also jabbed her in the waist and asked if she was afraid of being tickled.

The victim moved away and told Tan to stop as she was feeling uncomfortable. She told him that she saw him as a friend and went home.

After she had reached home, Tan began to message her repeatedly. She agreed to meet him again at his insistence, but Tan asked her: "How many guys have you said the same thing to?"

He turned aggressive after she told him he was her first Tinder date, and lambasted and threatened her when she asked for the photos that he had taken.

"She tried to apologise to him even though she did nothing wrong and to cordially end her conversations with him, but he started to scold and threaten her on WhatsApp and via SMS," said the prosecutor.

The victim called the police as she was afraid that Tan knew where she worked, but she was unable to provide sufficient details for a report.

Nearly two years later, Tan was separately fined S$8,000 in January 2019 after committing five counts of outrage of modesty.

After his case was reported in the papers, the victim made a police report as she realised that her modesty had also been outraged.

LIED ABOUT CHARITABLE PURPOSES

Tan also lied to his second victim, a store assistant, that he was taking photographs of feet for charitable purposes.

On Mar 27, 2019, Tan walked into the store where the victim worked and falsely introduced himself as being from the People's Association.

He said he was carrying out an activity where people would write inspiring quotes on the soles of their feet and take photos of them to form a collage.

Tan invited the victim to participate and she agreed, believing it to be a "positive movement", said the prosecutor.

Tan then put a toe ring on the victim's toe, wrote "may your feet take you where you (sic) heart wants to go" and drew smiley faces on each of her toes.

These were so he could pretend that the photo-taking was for charitable purposes, and have the opportunity to touch her feet even more, said the prosecutor.

For 10 minutes, as Tan photographed the victim's feet, he "slowly and constantly" touched and pushed together her soles and toes.

After taking the photos, Tan grabbed the victim's hand at least three times to shake it. Each time, he would slowly talk while caressing her hand, said the prosecutor.

Tan then asked for the victim's email so that he could send her a photo of the so-called charitable activity.

The victim felt very uncomfortable during the encounter and did an online search for Tan's name. She found out about his earlier 2019 conviction and made a police report.

"RABID MISOGYNISTIC STREAK"

The prosecution sought a jail term for Tan on the basis of his premeditation and "elaborate deception", as well as his highly relevant previous offences.

Apart from his 2019 conviction, Tan previously committed two counts of outrage of modesty against women, which were compounded in 2014.

Tan repeated the same ploy of helping out a charity in the present offences, and even used photos of women's feet taken in the course of previous offences to convince the first victim, argued the prosecutor.

Tan's charge under the Protection from Harassment Act also revealed his "problematic attitude towards women", said Mr Chong.

"Not only did he fail to respect their physical boundaries, he also displayed a rabid misogynistic streak towards (the victim) when she declined to reciprocate his advances," said the prosecutor.

"The accused's deception as 'charity' preys on his victims' kindness or generosity. It preys on women's fear of being seen as rude or abrasive, even to strangers. It makes a mockery of those involved in legitimate charitable activities."

In mitigation, Tan's defence lawyer asked the court to call for an assessment of his suitability for a mandatory treatment order, which directs an offender suffering from certain treatable psychiatric conditions to undergo psychiatric treatment.

The prosecution replied that there were differing opinions from psychiatrists on whether Tan suffers from a fetishistic disorder and added that Tan appeared to comply poorly with follow-up treatment, which explained his repeated offending.

For each count of outrage of modesty, Tan could have been jailed up to two years, fined, caned or any combination of these punishments.

Source: CNA/dv(gr)
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