Dishwasher believed to be the first convicted under new voyeurism law
He is among first to face such charges after changes to Penal Code
A dishwasher who trespassed into an Orchard Road shopping mall toilet to film two women in January admitted in court last Friday to committing voyeurism.
Kumarravel Ramesh, 21, is believed to be one of the first people to be convicted under a new voyeurism law which came into effect this year. The new offence is part of changes to the Penal Code passed by Parliament in May last year, and carries heavier penalties, including caning.
Kumarravel, who was charged on March 19, is one of two Malaysians taken to court this month to face charges under the new law.
Another man, Ang Yi Zheng, 20, was charged on March 17 with one count each of voyeurism and criminal trespass.
Ang, accused of using his phone to record a woman while she was in a second-storey toilet at Jem shopping mall at about 1.25am on Feb 29, is out on $5,000 bail and will appear in court tomorrow.
Kumarravel pleaded guilty last Friday to one count each of voyeurism and criminal trespass, with two other similar charges taken into consideration for sentencing.
He was working as a dishwasher in a Chinese restaurant in Wisma Atria, when he saw a Vietnamese woman, 41, enter a fourth-storey toilet on Jan 17 at about 8.30am. He found her attractive and decided to follow her into the toilet to film her.
Using the cubicle next to the one the woman was in, Kumarravel stood on the toilet bowl and used his phone to take an 11-second video of her.
Then, on Jan 22, he followed another Vietnamese woman, 32, into the same toilet at about 8.15am to film her.
But the woman saw his phone and screamed, alarming Kumarravel, who ran out of the toilet to avoid getting caught.
The police were alerted after Kumarravel was identified in closed-circuit television footage by the slippers he wore, which the woman had noticed.
The identities of both victims are protected by a gag order.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Sheldon Lim sought two weeks' jail for the criminal trespass charge and four months' jail for the voyeurism charge.
The latter is double the eight weeks' jail the prosecution would have sought if Kumarravel had committed the crime last year as he would have been prosecuted under Section 509 for insulting a woman's modesty - a "catch-all" provision that covered Peeping Toms and upskirters.
Citing the debate on the Criminal Law Reform Bill in May last year, DPP Lim told District Judge Adam Nakhoda that Parliament's intent in creating the new voyeurism offence was to strengthen deterrence through harsher punishments.
Those convicted under Section 509 were liable to a fine and/or up to a year's jail. Those convicted under the new voyeurism law face up to two years' jail, a fine, caning, or any combination of the three.
DPP Lim said: "Parliament has clearly articulated the necessity of stemming the rising tide of offenders who are exploiting advances in technology to prey on unsuspecting victims."
Kumarravel, who did not have a lawyer, asked for forgiveness and said he was the sole breadwinner of his family.
Overcome with emotion, he told the court via a translator he lived in Johor Baru with his pregnant wife and wanted to be sent back as soon as possible. He said: "I will never commit such an offence again."
As the case involved a new offence, Judge Nakhoda said he needed a week to deliberate on the appropriate sentence.
Kumarravel is in remand and will be back in court for sentencing on Friday.