SINGAPORE — A hynotherapist was acquitted of a charge of molest after the judge found that it was unsafe to convict him, due in part to the alleged victim’s inability to recall what had happened when she was hypnotised.
Sreekamal Asante Parambil Kalesan, a 43-year-old Singaporean, had claimed trial to a charge of molesting the victim, then 17, on 9 April 2017 at Petra Hypnosis & Training Centre, by kissing her cheek and forehead.
He was acquitted by District Judge John Ng after his lawyer Kalidass Murugaiyan closed the defence's case.
Delivering the verdict on Monday (22 November), DJ Ng noted that the burden was not on the defence to prove Sreekamal’s innocence, and that it was sufficient to raise a reasonable doubt on the charge.
The main issue DJ Ng considered was the alleged victim’s version of events, which contained irreconcilable inconsistencies. On the contrary, Sreekamal’s evidence had no material inconsistencies which undermined his credibility.
While the alleged victim had testified that her eyes were open, she later claimed her eyes were closed. This was an essential aspect of the charge faced by Sreekamal, as it showed how Sreekamal had allegedly kissed her and would have an implication on how she reacted.
The alleged victim also gave differing evidence on when Sreekamal had allegedly hugged her.
“The (alleged victim) could not adequately account for the various material inconsistencies in her evidence in court. These unsatisfactory aspects of the evidence… made it unsafe to convict the accused on the charge,” said DJ Ng.
“The accused simply did not know of any motive for the (alleged victim) to do so. Instead, the suggestion by the defence was that she could have been mistaken as to what had really happened due to her being under hypnosis.”
The judge noted that the alleged victim had difficulty recalling what had happened as she was hypnotised. The alleged victim had agreed with the defence that she was in a state between conscious and unconscious, which affected her memory and what she was able to recollect.
In addition, her mother, who was present at some of the hypnotherapy sessions, gave evidence that stated Sreekamal was able to put her daughter into a hypnotic state.
“The issue of whether the (alleged victim) was hypnotised or not, at the time of the incident, is not easy to determine in this case,” said DJ Ng, who pointed out there was no objective evidence, which could testify to her state.
“There was a video clip of the (alleged victim), recorded on the same day and not long after the alleged offence, that showed the (alleged victim) having a hallucination of an apple turning into an orange when there was no physical fruit in the palm of the accused,” he said.
The victim had claimed that she had not hallucinated, but only imagined the fruit in Sreekamal’s hand. However, the judge ruled that it was not possible to discern if she was hallucinating or imagining the existence of a fruit as it was a subjective experience.
In its closing submissions, the prosecution argued that alleged victim had been internally and externally consistent with the material facts, and that she had no reason to lie. Sreekamal, however, had been alone with her and had every opportunity to molest the alleged victim, who was one of his youngest and only female clients he had at the time.
According to the prosecution, the victim first went to the centre on 16 March 2017 for a free trial hypnotherapy session. She signed up for five sessions of hypnotherapy but only attended three in March and April 2017.
During the second session, Sreekamal introduced the alleged victim to a “pleasure exercise”, where he got her to close her eyes while she was standing and relax her body.
As part of the process, he shook the alleged victim’s hands and asked her to think of a time where she felt pleasure. He told her to “increase” the feeling of pleasure as he shook her hand with increasing force.
At certain points in time, the accused asked the victim to lean against his chest with her eyes closed and he held her shoulders to support her weight. The accused also introduced a “recognition” exercise with her, asking her to recite a mantra to make her feel more positive about certain tasks.
Similarly in the third session, Sreekamal conducted the “pleasure exercise” with her when he committed the offence, according to the prosecution.
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