Speaking to about 400 people on Monday (Jan 6), at the Opening of the Legal Year 2020 event on the recent debate over the issue of sexual misconduct on university campuses, Attorney-General Lucien Wong explained that the disparity in sentencing is because of the various factors that make up each case.
“The simple reality is that no two cases are exactly alike,” he said, adding that he understood how different outcomes for different cases “may touch a raw nerve if people feel that we had given preferential treatment to a particular offender, or that we had simply been too lenient”.
However, he added that while it was crucial to be tough on sexual misconduct offenses, both him and his colleagues “are also duty-bound to consider all relevant evidence and mitigating factors, such as whether the offender came clean on his own initiative, or whether the offence arose from a mental condition that can be treated.”
Referring to the Monica Baey incident, Mr Wong said he accepts that there will be cases where people disagree with prosecutorial decisions, adding that “we cannot totally ignore public opinion when exercising our prosecutorial functions”.
“After all, the public has an instinctive sense of fairness and justice — public opinion can therefore be a common sense check on whether a decision is so removed from logic or acceptable moral standards that it should be relooked”, he added.
Monica Baey, a student from the National University of Singapore (NUS), made a series of Instagram stories in which she expressed outrage that fellow student, Mr. Nicholas Lim, had been issued only a conditional warning from the police and a one-semester suspension from the university after filming her in the shower at the Eusoff Hall student residence in the National University of Singapore (NUS) last November. She was frustrated that he had only gotten off with a small penalty, whereas her nude photos and videos would stay on the Internet forever.
Her posts sparked public outrage and furor, where even Law and Home Affairs minister K. Shanmugam said, “I was surprised, myself, with the verdict. I therefore asked AGC for their views. AGC officers told me that they disagreed with the verdict, and that they intend to appeal. That is consistent with my views as well”.
She caused local universities to strengthen their disciplinary frameworks against those who commit sexual offenses on campus and shore up support for victims of such offenses.
During his speech however, Mr Wong stressed that prosecutorial decisions “will not be made on the basis of public opinion”.
“If a decision is grounded on facts, law, and precedent, the fact that it is unpopular does not make it any less right,” he said. /TISG