Gag order lifted on identity of Singaporean undergrad voyeur from top UK uni, defence appeals

The student, now 23, filmed multiple female friends from 2015 to 2018. At least two clips were circulated widely online with the victims’ faces visible. — Unsplash pic
The student, now 23, filmed multiple female friends from 2015 to 2018. At least two clips were circulated widely online with the victims’ faces visible. — Unsplash pic

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SINGAPORE, July 29 — A district judge on Thursday (July 29) lifted a gag order imposed on the identity of a 23-year-old Singaporean undergraduate from a top British university, who had filmed voyeuristic videos of almost a dozen female friends.

However, he still cannot be publicly named as his lawyers will appeal the decision in the High Court. They have to file the appeal within the next week.

The prosecution told the court that all 11 identified victims have consented to lifting the gag order. Most said that such an order — which is imposed by the courts to protect victims — would not serve its intended purpose and would do more harm than good.

The gag order will still cover the victims’ identities, their relationship to the accused and the names of the schools they attend.

The case has seen a number of twists and turns, notably when the prosecution and defence sparred over whether the accused man should be allowed to return to the United Kingdom for his studies. He was ultimately banned from leaving Singapore early last year. 

Prosecutors had also applied to lift the gag order at the time, but it was rejected as not all of the victims had agreed then.

On Thursday, the undergraduate pleaded guilty to offences committed over three years from 2015 which started when he was 18 years old. 

The victims’ faces were visible in the clips and all but one have been identified. 

He first struck when he was about to graduate from junior college, escalating his acts throughout his National Service and undergraduate days.

He admitted to seven counts of insulting a woman’s modesty and one of possessing obscene videos. 

Eight other similar charges will be taken into consideration for sentencing at a later date, while four charges in relation to another woman were withdrawn.

District Judge Tan Jen Tse called for a report to assess his suitability for probation. The prosecution did not object to this but clarified it would not prejudice them from potentially seeking a jail sentence.

Took videos out of stress from school or work

Between early 2016 to June 2019, the police received several reports of two obscene videos circulating online.

After identifying the accused as the main suspect in June 2019, the police raided his residence and seized seven electronic devices containing at least 16 videos and 124 upskirt photographs.

The accused would delete the clips from time to time before recovering the deleted data from his devices. Because of this, investigators could not recover all of the videos he had taken.

In his first statement to the police, he admitted to taking upskirt videos of “not more than five victims” in 2015 and could not remember how many victims he filmed between 2016 and 2018. He estimated the total number of videos to be “maybe three digits”.

He said he committed the offences when he felt stressed from school or work.

When confronted with the videos found in his devices, he claimed he could not remember whether he downloaded or recorded them. He also said he could not recognise the victims and did not remember where the videos could have been taken.

What he did

He first struck in December 2015 when several friends gathered in a hotel room he had booked after their junior college’s prom night.

He placed a recording device in the toilet and took a 14-minute video of his friend, then aged 18, showering.

A few months later she lodged a police report after the school’s principal told her about the video circulating. 

As of August last year, the video could still be found on pornographic websites and has been viewed at least 177,000 times. The clip included a photograph of her in her prom night dress.

In her victim impact statement last year, she said she received messages from friends or strangers about the video. She felt embarrassed, betrayed and wary of male friends, and has turned down invitations to parties at public places for fear of having to use the toilet. 

A year later, the man filmed another victim who went to his house for a Christmas gathering.

The clip of the 19-year-old in his toilet circulated on a pornographic website and has been viewed at least 38,000 times.

The victim received a message on Instagram almost two years later from an unknown person, who sent her two still photos from the video and asked if it was her. She then lodged a police report.

In October 2018, he secretly filmed a 21-year-old woman while she was using the toilet in his UK university accommodation. In her victim impact statement, she said she felt like her purity had been taken away from her.

Later that year, he filmed two victims using the toilet at his residence during another Christmas gathering.

One of them said she dreaded the prospect of returning to the same university as him and felt ashamed of “not being careful enough”.

Gag order arguments

In applying for the gag order to be lifted on the accused’s identity, Deputy Public Prosecutors Foo Shi Hao and Tan Zhi Hao said that the 11 friends he targeted have unanimously accepted the risk that they could be publicly identified.

One of them had initially opposed it, which led to District Judge Adam Nakhoda to decline lifting the gag order on his name last year. She has since joined the other victims in support of him being named.

One victim wrote in her impact statement: “I felt a deep sense of injustice as I felt that the gag order had served to protect the accused more than the victims as the accused is able to resume school and continue with life thus far. 

“I felt helpless knowing protecting [sic] that other girls could be potential victims and yet I could not protect them by warning them of the accused, due to the gag order.” 

DPP Foo told the court: “Far from avoiding or minimising their trauma, the gag order has added to their misery.”

The man’s lawyers —Kalidass Murugaiyan and Ashvin Hariharan — objected to this, saying that the State Courts had no jurisdiction to lift the gag order as it had previously declined to do so.

Ashvin added that the victims are still young and “may not be able to fully appreciate the risk of their identities being compromised”.

Nevertheless, District Judge Tan ruled in the prosecution’s favour.

Adult offenders convicted of insulting a woman’s modesty can be jailed for up to a year or fined or both. — TODAY

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