SINGAPORE, Sept 18 — After he was let out of prison in March on remission for good behaviour, Soh Wee Boon could not return to work as a petrol kiosk pump attendant and turned to selling tissue paper packs in Yishun.
The 26-year-old, who suffers from mild intellectual disability and gender identity disorder with transvestism, then started harassing the people who bought the items from him.
Soh has previous convictions for insulting the modesty of women, criminal intimidation and performing obscene acts.
Yesterday, he was sentenced to 11 months and two weeks in jail on one charge of harassment and two charges of insulting the modesty of a woman.
He was given another enhanced sentence of 90 days’ jail, since he had reoffended while on remission from March 13 to July 9.
For the latest offences, the court heard that on April 2 at about 6.50am, he asked a 13-year-old girl who was on her way to school how she would feel if a boy from her class were to transform into a girl, and if the boy should “cut off” his private parts for a gender change.
As he was talking to her, he used his hands to press himself near his private parts.
He did these when the victim agreed to buy three packets of tissue paper from him.
Then three days later, a 12-year-old girl bought packets of tissue paper from him and he asked her if she was wearing any underwear.
He also said to her: “Little sister, can you remove your skirt for me to wear?”
When the girl evaded his question, he pressed on, asking her why she would not do it and asking her to “take off your skirt now”.
He also asked: “If a man (wears) female clothing, does it mean he is a pervert?”
The girl tried to walk away but he stood in front of her, blocking her. He told her to “follow me and sit down with me. I want to talk to you” as he extended his hand towards the victim.
The girl was too afraid to move until her 72-year-old grandmother approached them. The grandmother shouted at Soh while the 12-year-old ran towards her crying.
He fled the scene as the grandmother called the police.
Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Sunil Nair said that the 12-year-old girl is now afraid of being around strangers in public.
A few days before harassing the schoolgirls, Soh pestered a 45-year-old nurse while he was wearing a black dress, asking her if he would look nice dressing up as a female, if he was pretty, and how she thought he could be more of a woman than a man.
The nurse, who was approached on March 25 at the lift landing of her flat, was alarmed and quickly entered the lift. She hurried home and phoned her husband, who then called the police.
Troubled family background
During mitigation, Soh’s lawyer, Tan Jeh Yaw, said that the offences were committed largely because of his mental conditions.
Soh “seeks to persuade (the court) that he is not beyond redemption”, Tan said, urging the court to take a more rehabilitative approach in sentencing.
Soh’s grandmother, speaking through Tan, told the court that he did not have a good childhood and was compelled by circumstances to rough it out in the streets selling tissue paper packs with his three-year-old stepsister since he was 13.
Tan said in written submissions that Soh’s parents were divorced when he was around nine. His mother remarried but the marriage was short-lived.
Soh’s mother is now in prison, his biological father was a glue-sniffer, and his older brother was sentenced to life imprisonment, the lawyer added. His brother had killed a woman in 2010.
The grandmother also asked District Judge Eddy Tham to give Soh one more chance, stating that if her grandson commits an offence again, the court should then sentence him to serve time in “whatever length as the court may decide”.
Tan stated in his plea that the gender identity disorder that Soh suffers is a consequence of his experiences from a young age.
Soh had recounted to his lawyer that a female classmate had repeatedly made Soh wear a dress and go out with her, telling him to change sex and “be a girl”.
“The accused was easily influenced, unable to communicate well with others and desired affirmation,” Tan said. “As a result the accused felt and continues to feel confused and stressed about his gender identity.”
Despite Soh’s existing conditions, DPP Nair noted that a senior consultant with the Institute of Mental Health had assessed him to be not of unsound mind and that he was fit to plead in court.
The prosecutor also said of Soh’s latest offences: “He was fully aware of his actions and would have known that these were wrongful. He is not so intellectually impaired to have not been able to learn from his previous punishments that his behaviour towards the victims would be wrongful.”
When sentencing Soh, District Judge Tham considered that serious harm had been caused by his “very disturbing acts”. A substantial jail sentence is therefore warranted as “public order needs to be protected”, he added.
For each charge of insulting the modesty of a woman, Soh could have been jailed up to a year, or fined, or both. For intentionally harassing a woman, he could have been jailed up to six months, fined up to SGD$5,000 (RM15,210), or both. — TODAY