SINGAPORE, Aug 1 — A High Court judge on Thursday (July 30) dismissed an appeal by prosecutors seeking eight weeks’ jail for a 25-year-old man, who took illicit videos of a woman at an office while he was interning there in 2017.
Judge of Appeal Tay Yong Kwang ruled that a 14-day detention order would rightly have a “deterrent and retributive effect” on Hoon Qi Tong, who graduated from the Singapore Management University (SMU) last year.
Hoon was sentenced in a district court last December to 130 hours of community service and the short detention after he pleaded guilty to one count of insulting a woman’s modesty.
A short detention order means that he will serve two weeks behind bars but will not have a criminal record when he is released.
Another charge of criminal trespass was taken into consideration for sentencing.
He first filmed up the skirt of a female colleague but soon lost interest in such recordings.
He then decided to film women in the toilet to see if he could derive pleasure from it.
Following two unsuccessful attempts, he was caught red-handed in the women’s toilet while filming a colleague.
He followed her from her desk to the women’s restroom. He waited until he was sure she had gone into a cubicle before entering the one next to hers and taking a video of her.
When she looked up and saw his mobile phone, she immediately knocked on his cubicle.
He emerged and did not deny filming her. He also formatted his phone, effectively deleting the video, after she told him to get rid of it.
Hoon was arrested by the police after she reported the matter to her bosses. He was also immediately fired.
While the police seized his mobile phone and his laptop, the upskirt and toilet videos could not be recovered.
When sentencing Hong, District Judge John Ng said that a detention order “should not be perceived as a soft option”, as Hoon will be incarcerated and deprived of his liberty.
Prosecution and defence’s arguments
On Thursday, Deputy Public Prosecutors (DPPs) Terence Chua and Chin Jincheng argued that the community-based sentence was inappropriate for an “adult offender who committed a premeditated and highly sexual offence”.
Jail time of eight to 12 weeks is usually imposed in similar cases, they added.
While Hoon was diagnosed with persistent depressive disorder, an Institute of Mental Health psychiatrist found that it was only a mild contributory factor to his offence.
As for the victim, the prosecutor said that District Judge Ng failed to give enough weight to the harm and trauma caused to her.
She had written in an impact statement that she is afraid to use public toilets now.
Hoon’s lawyer Mark Lee told the court that Hoon has abided by all the conditions imposed, including a curfew, during his trial probation period.
He was put on the trial in February last year after being found suitable for probation, which is usually given to offenders aged below 21. He was 23 years old when he committed his offence.
However, District Judge Ng ultimately did not impose the sentence as he found that a custodial sentence was warranted.
In dismissing the prosecution’s appeal, Judge Tay described it as a “difficult case” where the interests of society, especially the victim’s, “weigh heavily against the offender for his crimes and admitted past conduct”.
In the end, he found that Hoon’s circumstances, particularly those after his offence, “pulls the court towards rehabilitation”.
This included Hoon being gainfully employed, seeking follow-up psychiatric treatment and having strong family support.
The High Court judge said that District Judge Ng had sought to achieve the right balance between the conflicting interests by imposing the detention order for the main sentencing principles of deterrence and rehabilitation, while ordering community service as part of Hoon’s reparations to the community.
Judge Tay also noted that if Hoon breaches his community service order, he can be re-sentenced to a heavier punishment.
“(Hoon) still has to go to prison for two weeks the community service order will help in reparation and rehabilitation by having him contribute to the good of society while serving as a constant reminder that he has done wrong and must change,” the High Court judge added.
He also disagreed with the prosecution that Hoon had shown premeditation, saying his behaviour was more opportunistic from the facts of the case, even though he “clearly had predisposition” to film women in the toilet.
Hoon began serving his sentence immediately. — TODAY