SMU molest trial: Student sentenced to 10 months' jail, 3 strokes of the cane

·Senior Reporter
·3 min read
Singapore Management University at 81 Victoria Street. (Yahoo News Singapore file photo)
Singapore Management University at 81 Victoria Street. (Yahoo News Singapore file photo)

SINGAPORE — A Singapore Management University undergraduate convicted of molesting a woman on campus in 2019 was sentenced to 10 months' jail and three strokes of the cane on Monday (25 October). 

Lee Yan Ru, 25, was accused of rubbing his genitals on the woman as she lay on the floor of a campus study room at around 6.30am on 8 January 2019. The two had agreed to meet at SMU for an overnight study session.

According to the then 22-year-old victim, she had been rejecting Lee’s advances in the lead-up to the incident by pushing him away, or telling him to go away and to stop his actions.

In his defence, Lee maintained that the woman, who was not an SMU student, had been growing more comfortable with him and had not minded his advances despite her seeming resistance at the time.

In convicting Lee in August, District Judge Sharmila Sripathy-Shanaz had rejected Lee's testimony in court, which contained "inexplicable material omissions and contradictions". She found that the victim had been "an inherently credible, forthcoming witness who provided her evidence with clarity and without hesitation or embellishment". 

Consequences for Lee's actions

Delivering her judgement on Monday, DJ Sripathy-Shanaz found that Lee had steadfastly maintained that he had done nothing wrong, even to the present moment. 

The prosecution sought a sentence of 10 months’ jail and three strokes of the cane, while Lee's lawyers argued for no more than six months' jail, and in the alternative, probation. But the judge said Lee had not demonstrated an extremely strong propensity for reform, such that rehabilitation was the dominant sentencing principle. 

Lee's denial about his culpability belayed his lack of insight into the wrongfulness of his actions, while his absence of remorse was not at all suggestive of his personal resolve to reform, added the judge. 

Further, while Lee's lawyers had said that the court case would impact his future, the argument lacked persuasiveness and was not relevant to sentencing. 

"A person who breaches the criminal law must expect to face the consequences that follow under the criminal law," said DJ Sripathy-Shanaz. "He will also have to bear the collateral consequences which extend far beyond these proceedings. However, these are the natural consequences that flow from his bad choices."

Not 'an iota of empathy for the victim'

Alluding to Lee's mitigation, the judge added that Lee's purported empathy for members of his school community and his volunteer outreach efforts were inconsequential when he had failed to demonstrate "an iota of empathy for the victim".

"Sexual offences of any kind are a gross violation of our fundamental values as a society and offenders should expect to face the full force of the law."

In calibrating the sentence, the judge found the degree of sexual exploitation to be high and that the touch was more than fleeting, and had began while the victim was asleep. The victim had also been placed in a position of submission. 

The judge also took into account the psychological toll on the victim, whom said she felt disrespected and degraded. The victim testified that she could not sleep for a few days after the incident, and had been diagnosed with acute stress disorder and was prescribed with medication to alleviate her anxiety over the court case. 

Lee will be appealing his conviction and sentence and has had his sentence stayed for the time being. 

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