Man acquitted by High Court of molesting woman he invited to his flat
SINGAPORE – A 45-year-old man who was originally sentenced to five years’ jail and six strokes of the cane for molesting a married woman he invited to his home was acquitted on Tuesday (Sept 1) after his appeal to the High Court.
Mr Chen Benzhong, a photographer, was charged with hugging the 39-year-old woman and touching her breasts after pinning her down on a bed.
He contested the charges, arguing that she was a willing party in the incident on Sept 3, 2017, but a district judge found him guilty of two molestation charges last year.
On Tuesday, High Court judge Chua Lee Ming allowed the man’s appeal, saying that it was unsafe to uphold the conviction.
The judge accepted arguments by his lawyers, Mr Philip Fong and Mr Hee Theng Fong, that the man’s intention to ask the woman to spend the night with him was very clear in text messages exchanged between them.
In messages to the woman the night before, Mr Chen, who is also married, invited her to his home, noting that her husband was out of town.
She asked “is it safe”, and when he asked if it would be okay if she did not go home, she replied with an emoji of a shocked face.
The judge said she was clearly aware of the man’s intention and was at least open to the possibility of a tryst with him.
Justice Chua also noted that when Mr Chen asked the woman to go to his bedroom, she followed him instead of leaving the flat.
He added that there was no damage to her clothes and he also found it “difficult” to see how her bra could have become unhooked based on her account of how she was being held down.
The court heard that Mr Chen, who met the woman four months before the alleged offences, had sent her messages with terms of endearment.
The woman, who cannot be named due to a gag order to protect her identity, maintained that they were just friends.
She testified that she had asked Mr Chen to help her photograph some beauty products that she was selling. She said she thought he was taking her to his studio, but it turned out to be his flat.
She alleged that the man repeatedly told her to go to the bedroom, saying it was air-conditioned, and she reluctantly followed him.
She claimed that while she was seated, he asked her to stand up to compare their height, and when she did so, he hugged her.
She said she tried to push him away but he pushed her onto the bed, reached under her blouse and tugged at her bra before groping her. She added that he stopped after she shouted loudly.
The woman then ran out of the bedroom, locked herself in the bathroom where she phoned a colleague for help. She also told Mr Chen to go to his room.
After more than one hour, she came out of the bathroom and searched for the keys, and later left the flat without her shoes.
Her colleague and two police officers who saw her at the void deck testified that she was crying, said Deputy Public Prosecutor Joshua Lim.
But Mr Chen’s lawyers argued that signs of distress did not mean she was violated. They noted that after the woman rejected Mr Chen’s advances, he did not stop her from leaving and even told her where to find the keys.
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