GrabHitch driver jailed after molesting two women | The New Paper

GrabHitch driver jailed after molesting two women

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Carpool services can do more to screen drivers: Transport GPC deputy chairman

A part-time GrabHitch driver, who was convicted of molest in 2015, preyed on two more women in October last year.

Tan Keng Leng, 39, an engineer in a chemical company, was jailed for 22 months yesterday after pleading guilty to three charges of molest, with two similar charges taken into consideration.

GrabHitch is a social carpooling service where passengers can book a ride with non-commercial drivers for a fee.

In Oct 12 last year, the first victim, 46, found the rear doors locked. Tan, who is married with a daughter, told her to sit in front as he had files on the back seat.

When they were on the Pan-Island Expressway, she felt his elbow touching her arm.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Goh Yi Ling said: "She thought this was accidental and shifted her body to the left."

But Tan extended his elbow again and touched the right side of the victim's breast at least four times during the journey.

About an hour later, Tan picked up his second victim, 24.

She had also wanted to sit at the back but sat in front after she saw items on the back seat.

While the car was on East Coast Road, Tan shifted his body closer to the woman and used his elbow to touch her inappropriately.

After she shifted away from him, Tan started talking to her while gesturing with his hand.

When the car went over a bump, his fingers touched her breast at least three times during the trip.

DPP Goh called for at least 12 months' jail for each charge, as Tan was considered a public transport worker with the responsibility of ensuring the safety of his passengers.

She also said Tan had made his victims sit in front, and they "were unable to escape" from his car.

In 2015, Tan was jailed for eight months after he pretended to fall in a lift and molested two women who tried to help him.

Urging the court to call for a suitability report for a mandatory treatment order for Tan, defence lawyer T.M. Sinnadurai said he was diagnosed with persistent depressive disorder, work stress and low marital satisfaction.


He said the couple reported declining levels of sexual intimacy after losing their second child in 2017 and tending to their "high-needs" daughter.

The case has raised questions how a convicted sexual offender was allowed to provide a service that gave him access to potential victims.

Currently, carpooled rides such as GrabHitch are not considered public transport.

They are not regulated like taxi and private-hire services, where drivers must obtain special licences.

Anyone convicted of serious offences that pose a threat to safety such as rape, murder or kidnapping is barred from obtaining such licences for life.

Grab told TNP that it has banned Tan from its platform as "we have zero tolerance for indecent behaviour".

Mr Ang Hin Kee, deputy chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee (GPC) for Transport, said that platforms that offer carpooling can do a lot more with regard to screening drivers and passengers.

"LTA (Land Transport Authority) has to decide if further regulation is required, to perhaps require operators to be more stringent, after such incidents," he told The New Paper.

Mr Ang also said LTA will introduce a new regulatory framework for the point-to-point sector from June next year.

The new framework, he said, is expected to require operators of carpooling platforms to be licensed. It will also give LTA the power to set safety requirements on licensed operators, such as possibly requiring them to screen users.

But the authorities will continue to adopt a light-touch approach in regulating carpooling services, he added.

"We had proposed to regulate hitch and carpooling services before and, of course, we want greater safety and transparency for both drivers and passengers," said Mr Ang.

"But if we want to regulate this whole environment, then it changes the whole flavour of carpooling here."