Lawyer on trial for allegedly molesting, taking intrusive photos of female Drew & Napier colleague
The identity of the young male lawyer accused of molesting a female colleague in 2017 cannot be disclosed, to protect the identity of the alleged victim.
A young lawyer is on trial for allegedly molesting and taking intrusive photos of a female colleague in 2017, when they were both working at Drew & Napier, one of Singapore’s largest law firms.
The accused, a Singaporean who graduated with the highest distinction from a local university and is now working for another law firm, cannot be named due to a gag order protecting the victim’s identity. His age cannot be reported either.
In a trial which started on Monday (Nov 11), the lawyer is contesting four charges over acts allegedly committed against the same female lawyer at the firm's office at the Ocean Financial Centre in Collyer Quay.
He faces three counts of outraging the modesty of the woman by taking intrusive photographs, and one count of using criminal force to outrage her modesty.
Court documents stated that he allegedly used his handphone to take photographs of her chest, bra and panties at about 8pm one day in April 2017. The exact date was not specified in court, nor were the circumstances of how he was in a position to take those photographs.
And in the office at about 2.30pm on Oct 11, 2017, he allegedly took another photograph of her panties, and moved on to allegedly molest her by pressing his thigh against her upper arm.
On Monday, the trial quickly went into an ancillary hearing as the accused disputed the contents of a police statement, by claiming that he was induced into confessing.
He testified that Senior Staff Sergeant Thanabalan Kothandapani – the police officer who recorded statements he made on Nov 10 and Nov 14 in 2017 – had offered to “close the case” if he were to confess, apologise to the victim, and state where the photos he allegedly took were.
On Nov 10, he denied to police that he had committed any offence but returned to the Police Cantonment Complex on Nov 14, to change his statement to one admitting that he had molested and insulted the modesty of the victim by taking the photographs.
He claims that Mr Thanabalan had promised him after he signed off on the first statement that the matter “wouldn’t even go to the AGC (Attorney-General’s Chambers)”.
After he gave the Nov 14 statement, he also claimed that he had told the police officer that he was going to “trust him to close the case”, and so he did not read its contents before signing it.
“I saw no point in (reading the statement) because I was happy to simply agree to whatever allegations that were made against me so long as the matter can be closed,” he told the court.
Mr Thanabalan denied making such a promise when he took the stand on Monday.
EMAIL TO VICTIM: ‘PLEASE HAVE MERCY’
In an effort to disprove the accused man’s assertions, Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Marshall Lim read out four emails he sent to the victim and another female colleague after bumping into the latter at the Police Cantonment Complex on Nov 14.
The first email, sent to the other colleague at 9.13am, stated that he “can’t afford for this thing to blow up”, adding that he could quit the law firm to further resolve the matter.
He then sent another email to the victim at 9.17am saying: “I am on the verge of taking my own life… I’ve always treated you sincerely and honestly save for those times when I was very stressed when I committed those mistakes.
“I didn’t keep any footage. I always deleted them within minutes (because) I will feel so guilty. Please, please, please have mercy on me.”
He then sent the other female colleague two more emails, at 9.21am and 9.39am.
One said: “I have never done anything wrong in my life except for this one mistake.”
The other stated: “I was interviewed on Friday and I am here to come clean. I think they will arrest me after. I am sorry… I really loved the team.”
The three lawyers involved in the case were working in the same team under the same lawyer.
DPP Lim noted that he took less than 30 minutes to draft and send out all the four emails that morning.
“When you sent (the other colleague) these three emails, it was a very spontaneous, raw, unfiltered reaction when you saw her, isn’t it?” said DPP Lim, putting to the accused that he meant what he had written in those emails.
The accused insisted that the emails were sent as a matter of “strategic advantage”.
The emails were to just “give them a peace of mind that this guy already wants to resolve the matter” so they won’t see a need to blow the matter up any further, he told the court.
The accused is represented by Mr Tan Hee Joek of Tan See Swan & Co.
If convicted of molestation, the accused could be jailed for up to two years, fined or caned, or any combination of the three. If convicted of insulting the woman’s modesty, he could be jailed for up to one year, fined, or both.
In a media statement on Monday, Drew & Napier said: “Our firm has a strict zero-tolerance policy towards misconduct of any nature. Our colleagues work hard to maintain a supportive and respectful work environment with an open-door policy.
“We are fully committed to ensuring that every single member of our firm feels safe, and that reported cases of misconduct, sexual or otherwise, are responded to swiftly. Appropriate steps were taken when the allegations came to light.”
The trial continues on Tuesday.
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