Govt ministry employee sentenced to probation for taking upskirts

SINGAPORE — Are diagnosed voyeurs seized by their impulses when they plan to commit an offence? A High Court judge posed this question yesterday when he heard the Attorney-General’s Chambers’ appeal to increase the sentence of a voyeur who took multiple upskirt videos.

The offender, a 30-year-old former government ministry employee, was sentenced to probation with conditions for 17 charges pertaining to possession of obscene films and filming of upskirt and hidden-camera videos of women and children.

Prosecutors, however, are pressing for jail time for the offender, a diagnosed voyeur and fetishist. He cannot be named so as to protect the identity of his victims.

Justice Chan Seng Onn said whether the offender was compelled by impulse when he installed a hidden camera at his girlfriend’s house would have “serious bearing on sentencing”. He adjourned the case so that psychiatric expert witnesses can be called to address the question.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Tang Shangjun argued that a custodial sentence is warranted, given the seriousness of the offences and how they were planned and premeditated.

The offender was caught taking an upskirt video of a woman at Giant Hypermarket in IMM Shopping Mall in January 2011.

More offences surfaced during investigations: He was found to possess more than 10,000 obscene videos and had also used a hidden camera between August 2010 and January 2011 to film his girlfriend’s family members — including two girls aged 10 and 12 — showering at home.

The offender knew the family would switch on the water heater before showering and would wait until they did so before going into the toilet to place the camera, which was disguised as a cigarette lighter, the court heard. He would retrieve it after they had showered.

He had also taken upskirt videos of his colleagues at the ministry.

Of the 17 counts he faced, six were proceeded on and the remainder taken into consideration for sentencing.

The outcome of this case has “significant implications on how well the privacy and modesty of women are protected in an era when miniaturised and hidden digital video recording devices are increasingly available”, said Mr Tang. He added that sentencing the offender to probation “tilts the balance too heavily in favour of (him)”.

Despite the offender’s mental condition, the rehabilitory aspects of the punishment should take a backseat to deterrence and retribution, the prosecutor said.

The offender, who was red-faced and looked down throughout the hearing, is receiving treatment at the Institute of Mental Health, his lawyer told the court.

The maximum penalty for taking an upskirt or hidden-camera video of women is jail for up to one year and a fine. NEO CHAI CHIN

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