If you live in Singapore, there’s no way you would have missed today’s most talked-about story: National University of Singapore (NUS) undergrad Terence Siow Kai Yuan yesterday received a mere slap on the wrist for having repeatedly molested a woman in a public space, as the judge presiding over his case looked to Siow’s accomplishments as a student to determine that he has “potential to excel in life.”
Siow, 23, was sentenced to 21 months probation by District Judge Jasvender Kaur, who cited his solid academic records, as well as his molestation of a 28-year-old woman in 2018 as “minor intrusions” to explain how she arrived at the decision.
The probation was meted despite the prosecution’s request to have Siow jailed for six weeks, which the prosecution asked for since the defendant had allegedly made an unsettling habit of molesting unsuspecting female victims in public spaces. Apparently, Siow had admitted to committing similar offenses at NUS since 2016.
As part of yesterday’s ruling, he was also ordered to perform 150 hours of community service, and his parents were required to put up a bond of $5,000 to ensure his good behavior, The New Paper reported.
In a Facebook post that appeared yesterday, the victim of the 2018 incident wrote that she was not angry, but disappointed that the court chose “to treat an adult who has committed multiple sexual offenses (not only on me, but on others) as a child.”
The victim also stated that she was offered $5,000 by Siow’s camp in exchange for a lighter sentence but refused to accept it. “He literally got a ‘get out of jail’ free card because of his academic performance,” she wrote.
According to court records, the victim was molested by Siow while they were both on board the train in September last year. Siow reportedly caught sight of the victim, moved seats to be seated right next to her, and from there, touched the victim’s legs twice. When she alighted at Serangoon station, he followed her — and repeated the transgression while they were on the station’s escalator.
Local news media have widely reported that Siow touched her “buttocks,” but according to the victim’s own Facebook post, it was her “genital area” that he touched. According to court hearings, Siow stopped only after the victim shouted at him, and he walked away — but the victim reported him to an MRT officer and subsequently filed a police report, and Siow was arrested three days later, The New Paper reported.
Public backlash: fast and fierce
The announcement of the verdict has led to a barrage of support for the victim from Singaporeans online. A Change.org petition was even started by a certain Kyle Leung, who, on the petition page, asks netizens to “take a stand against favoritism for sex offenders” like Siow, who seem to face lax penalties for crimes just because their academic performance “suggests they have a bright future.”
As of the time of this article’s publication, the petition has received over 21,000 signatures since it went up yesterday afternoon.
Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam weighed in on the subject, too, in a Facebook post that appeared today, in which he expressed “surprise” over Siow’s verdict — which led him to discuss the issue with the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC).
“AGC officers told me that they disagreed with the verdict, and that they intend to appeal. That is consistent with my views as well,” wrote Shanmugam. However, he also asked Singaporeans to “avoid casting aspersions personally on judges” because, as he said, the presiding judge Kaur was merely doing her duty.
That request, however, seems to have fallen on deaf ears online, as netizens continue to slam the verdict and the message it could send across Singaporean society.
Instagram account @wakeupsingapore wrote: “If being educated allows you to get away with crime, what kind of message are we sending? We might as well abolish our national pledge because justice and equality surely doesn’t (sic) exist.”
@Timothy_Bon wrote on Twitter: “You heard it here first, molest (sic) is okay as long as you have good grades. Guess all the posters on public transport were a lie, molest is NOT as serious a crime as we thought lmao. I just feel horrible for the victim….”
The comments on Facebook page NUS Whispers show that students, alumni and affiliates of the school are also upset about the verdict. One commenter wrote that Siow’s sentence reflected the “wrong senses of values and judgment system” for such cases — and connected the lax penalties Siow faced to the light punishment that the school meted out to the student perpetrator caught filming co-ed Monica Baey while she was showering on campus.
“What is this bull crap of an excuse??? so good grades = escape punishment from the law??” asked @beaniebeancakes. “Terence Siow Kai Yuan remember this name cause Wew son you are a bane on society.”
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