A 30-year-old civil servant facing an indecent assault charge was acquitted in court on Tuesday (5 January), after he was accused of deliberately bumping a woman’s buttocks during an LRT ride on 13 Aug 2019.
The female commuter claimed that she boarded a Punggol LRT train from Kadaloor station at 8am that day. The train was crowded but the woman said she felt like something was brushing against her right hip for about three minutes.
At first, she thought that someone had accidentally touched her and used her elbow to push back. But the sensation returned and she began to suspect that someone was groping her since it felt like a hand was touching her backside.
According to her statement, the woman said that she spotted the defendant standing behind her when she used her phone’s reflection to check who is standing behind her. Claiming that the man’s left hand was quite close to her right hip at the time, the woman secretly took three to four photos of the defendant with her mobile phone.
Stating that her suspicions intensified when the man looked at her camera, the woman said she grew even more suspicious when the man alighted the MRT at Punggol station but looked back at her when he was taking the escalator.
Outraged, the woman posted the man’s photo on social media and publicly accused him of groping her. A former colleague noticed the post and helped the woman call the police. A police officer told the commuters to take note of the man’s clothing and notify the police if she sees him again.
Just two days after the incident, the victim saw the man on board the LRT and promptly notified the police. The man – Mr Tay Jia Jun – was arrested the next day.
In court, Mr Tay vehemently denied the charge against him and represented himself, without engaging a defense lawyer. Pleading not guilty, the civil servant argued that he was in a “half dream and half awake” state when he took the LRT that morning.
Pointing out he would have used his palm directly to touch the woman if he really had bad intentions, the man argued that he was not accused of committing the same crime the second time he met the woman. He also stressed that tests showed his DNA was not found on the victim’s skirt and that he had a habit of looking around him when he takes the escalator.
Although the prosecution called Mr Tay’s explanations illogical and unbelievable, Judge Ong Chin Rhu ultimately ruled in favour of the defendant and released him.
Ruling that the prosecution had not proven their case beyond a reasonable doubt, Judge Ong said that she did not find the woman to be “unusually convincing”. She said:
“I wish to emphasise that I arrived at this conclusion not because I found (her) to be a witness who lacked credibility… On the contrary, I found (her) to be candid and frank… readily (admitting) to the gaps or limitations of her own observations and knowledge, including the fact she never specifically saw who or what touched her.”
She added that the trial centered upon whether the “bumps” the woman felt on her backside were caused by Mr Tay and that it is reasonable to expect that there could have been other commuters directly behind since the train was so crowded.
Mr Tay told reporters after the hearing: “I did not commit the crime…I felt that the law is just and fair, that is why I didn’t engage a lawyer.”
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