Outrage of modesty – NUS Student Spared from Jail

30 September 2019

Outrage of Modesty in Singapore

1. Introduction

Last week, Terence Siow, a student from the National University of Singapore pleaded guilty to one charge of outrage of modesty in Singapore.

2. The Background of the Outrage of Modesty’s Charge

The incident took place last year when Siow was on a train on the North East Line heading towards Punggol station. Siow took a seat beside a woman whom he saw and described to have “very long legs” in a pair of shorts. He started to use his left hand to touch the outside of the woman’s right thigh. The woman shifted away from him and crossed her legs. Siow touched her right thigh again before the woman moved to another seat and alighted at Serangoon station. Siow alighted together with the woman as he felt the urge to touch the woman again. On the escalator, Siow was standing behind the woman and he used his finger to touch her buttocks over her shorts. The woman then shouted at Siow. He then hurriedly walked towards the control station. The woman informed the station officer that Siow had molested her and pointed to Siow as he was leaving the control station. The woman lodged a police report soon after.

The District Judge described his offences as minor intrusions. It was also noted from the probation report that he was found to be suitable for probation as his academic results show that he has the potential to excel in life.

He was sentenced to 21 months of supervised probation with conditions, including the performance of 150 hours of community service.

The prosecution had sought an imprisonment term of 6 weeks.

3. Jing Yen comments in SCMP

Reporting on the matter, South China Morning Post sought the views of Chooi Jing Yen, who commented that Singapore’s sentencing regime placed emphasis on the principle of rehabilitation, and how young offenders could still be turned away from a life of crime and not “become hardened” by spending time in prison with other offenders.

The overarching consideration was whether the offender had potential for rehabilitation…that the older the perpetrator, the harder it would be to be granted probation.

This of course must be balanced against the other three principles of deterrence and retribution. When the public imagination is seized by a particular case, the arguments usually engage the retributive principle. But when the courts order probation, they are really engaging the question of whether some good can still be made out of the situation.

The AGC is taking the matter up on appeal.