Attorney-General: No two sex misconduct cases are exactly alike
Lucien Wong: Public opinion can be 'common sense check', AGC will do more to explain some decisions
The prosecution is duty-bound to consider all relevant evidence and mitigating factors in cases of sexual misconduct on campus, Attorney-General Lucien Wong said yesterday, while acknowledging the need to be tough on such offences.
Speaking at a ceremony to mark the opening of the legal year, Mr Wong addressed the challenge to maintain public trust and confidence in the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) as a fair and independent institution devoted to the rule of law.
He noted that there was recent debate over the issue of sexual misconduct on university campuses.
"I can understand how the disparity in outcomes for such cases may touch a raw nerve if people feel that we had given preferential treatment to a particular offender, or that we had simply been too lenient. The simple reality is that no two cases are exactly alike," he said.
"While I acknowledge the importance of being tough on such offences, my prosecutors and I are also duty-bound to consider all relevant evidence and mitigating factors, such as whether the offender came clean on his own initiative; or whether the offence arose from a mental condition that can be treated."
The issue was brought to the fore when undergraduate Monica Baey said on social media that the perpetrator who filmed her while she was in the shower at the National University of Singapore had got off lightly.
Mr Nicholas Lim, who was 23 at the time, was given a 12-month conditional warning by the police.
In his speech, Mr Wong said public opinion can be a "common sense check" on whether a prosecutorial decision should be relooked.
He said public opinion is also a useful indicator of the effect of certain types of offences, which in turn affects the need for general deterrence.
Moving forward, he said, the AGC will, in appropriate cases, explain more clearly the basis behind some decisions, while helping the public to understand that sometimes, the rule of law requires it to act contrary to the wishes of the majority.
Meanwhile, Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon said yesterday that it may be valuable to introduce more pathways that lead to admission to the Singapore Bar.
This will encourage individuals with complementary backgrounds and skill sets, such as those from science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields, to join and strengthen the legal service sector, he added.
In his speech at the opening ceremony for the new legal year, Chief Justice Menon further suggested that the local law schools consider offering such pathways through their courses and degrees.
The Chief Justice's ideas are based on his interactions with more than 160 stakeholders across 16 focus groups in the legal industry concerning the future of the legal profession.
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