Not rare for young offenders to be given warnings: Ex-DPP
AGC considers factors such as age, nature of crime in determining whether culprit is likely to re-offend
Whether a person who committed an offence is charged or given a warning depends on several factors that determine if he is likely to re-offend.
These factors can include the person's age, whether the accused is schooling and if it is his first offence.
Lawyers told The New Paper this yesterday in response to questions on the conditional stern warning given to a National University of Singapore (NUS) student who had filmed a female student taking a shower in a student residence last year.
The female student, Miss Monica Baey, posted Instagram stories last Friday that she had filed a police report and that evidence had included closed-circuit TV footage of the perpetrator entering different toilets and the video of her in the shower.
She then revealed that about a month later, she found out the accused was given a 12-month conditional warning.
An accused who receives a conditional warning instead of a charge must adhere to the conditions of the warning and must remain crime-free during a stipulated period. If the conditions are breached, he will be charged.
If complied with, he will receive a discharge amounting to an acquittal.
NUS had also suspended the undergraduate for one semester, banned him from entering the student residence and had him write an apology letter to Miss Baey. He also underwent mandatory counselling.
The perceived leniency of the warning created an uproar.
A petition on change.org urging the Singapore Police Force and the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) to reopen the case and charge the accused had been signed by more than 12,000 people as of 11.30pm last night.
The lawyers TNP spoke to said while a man found guilty of entering a female toilet and filming a woman taking a shower would be considered insulting the modesty of a woman and criminal trespass, whether the individual is charged or given a warning depends on the AGC.
Former deputy public prosecutor Tan Hee Joek told TNP: "There must be good reasons for the AGC to give a warning, otherwise it will be acting arbitrarily or in bad faith.
"There can be a whole host of reasons including the individual's mental condition, previous conduct and character references."
Mr Tan added: "It is not uncommon for stern warnings to be given to young offenders, especially if they are schooling."
TNP understands that between 2015 and 2017, there were five conditional warnings given by the police to students from NUS who were accused of taking inappropriate videos and peeping.
Lawyer Gloria James said other factors the AGC would take into consideration include the age of the offender, the nature of the offence and if the accused is doing well in school and has a promising future.
She said: "The purpose of our law is to ensure rehabilitation, and warnings can be seen as a fair way to ensure an accused does not commit such a crime again."
Lawyer Ravinderpal Singh said a main consideration is if the person would re-offend.
He added: "In the case of insulting the modesty of a woman, an important factor will be the degree of planning and premeditation - whether you planted the camera or was it done in a moment of opportunity."
While experts in the field may give possible reasons behind the AGC's decision, Mr Tan urged observers to refrain from speculating.
He said "Only the authorities have the full picture and is in the best position on what action to take."
A person charged with insulting the modesty of a woman can receive a maximum jail term of a year, or a fine, or both. A person charged with criminal trespass can receive a maximum jail term of three months, or a maximum fine of $1,500, or both.
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