A landmark case has forced Singapore’s Apex Court to weigh in on whether regular rape (penile penetration) is just as severe as penetration with one or more fingers (digital penetration).

According to Judge of Appeal Chao Hick Tin, who spoke on behalf of a five-judge panel yesterday, penile penetration and digital penetration have an “intelligible difference”.

“Penile penetration is a more intimate act than digital penetration. The abuse of such an act therefore represents a greater degree of intrusion into the sexual autonomy of the victim,” said Justice Chao. who heard the appeal of former beach patrol officer Pram Nair (picture) against his conviction and sentence.

The case before the panel involved beach patrol officer Pram Nair, who was sentenced last October to a total of 11 years and 19 days’ jail and 12 strokes of the cane for raping and sexually assaulting a 20-year-old contract teacher in May 2012.

Nair, then 23, had approached the woman at Wave House, a club at Sentosa, where after she downed several shots of alcohol. Nair then took the drunk woman to the beach and raped her.

During his trial, the High Court gave equal weight to the offences of rape and digital penetration. However, the Court of Appeal disagreed.

Laying down a new sentencing framework for rape cases set out in May, rape cases will now be grouped into three sentencing bands of increasing severity.

Each band carries a different range of sentences — starting from 10 years’ jail and six strokes of the cane, and going up to 20 years’ jail and 18 strokes of the cane.

The first band gives a sentence of 7 to 10 years jail and 4 strokes of the cane. The second band gives 10 to 15 years and 8 strokes. The third and most severe gives 15 to 20 years jail and 12 strokes.

Nair’s sentence remains unchanged as the appeal judges felt Nair’s case fell in the middle to upper range of band 1.

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