Judge raps netizens for negative comments about rape victim
SINGAPORE — Calling out people who had made disparaging comments online about a rape victim, a High Court judge said their behaviour could deter other victims of sexual crimes from seeking help from the authorities.
The people who exploited the anonymity of the Internet to do so were not only causing distress to the victim, but were also being “disrespectful of court processes”, said Judicial Commissioner Aedit Abdullah, who added that “where appropriate, action should be taken” against them by the relevant authorities.
“Those who make such comments have to reflect ... that that kind of behaviour would discourage victims of offences from coming forward,” the judge said. “(These comments) serve no purpose other than allowing (the commentators) to mouth off ... and play up their (own) prejudices.”
He made the comments during a hearing yesterday for convicted rapist Ong Soon Heng, who had abducted a drunk and unconscious 22-year-old student after a group outing to a nightclub, and raped her at his house at Hume Heights.
The 40-year-old bunker surveyor was found guilty in July of raping the victim, who was then an intern at a diner run by Ong’s friend, while she was in a drunken stupor.
Since the case was first reported on in March, some have posted negative comments about the victim, including blaming her for what happened because she had gone out drinking with a man. The victim, who cannot be named to protect her identity, was attending a co-worker’s farewell party. She was located via the Find My iPhone app by her boyfriend at that time.
Without specifying the comments he was referring to, JC Aedit said these can have a “negative impact” on people, including accused persons, who are innocent before being found guilty.
At the hearing yesterday, prosecutors and defence lawyers submitted to the court what they felt should be the sentence imposed on Ong.
Deputy Public Prosecutors Sellakumaran and Siti Adrianni Marhain called for at least 14 years’ jail and 12 strokes of the cane.
“The accused’s preying on the victim in her completely defenceless condition is made all the more abhorrent by the fact that the accused had abused her trust in doing so,” said the prosecution, noting that Ong was someone the victim looked up to and trusted.
The victim had also told the court that she regarded Ong as her friend. “The victim’s capacity not to consent was not merely compromised but completely absent,” they added.
Defence lawyers Sunil Sudheesan and Diana Ngiam, however, asked for a sentence of 10 years’ imprisonment and six strokes of the cane for their client.
They argued that while a victim may be vulnerable when inebriated, vulnerability exists on a spectrum.
Taking advantage of victims who are young or mentally disabled was more aggravating than taking advantage of a victim who was inebriated, the lawyers added.
Ong will be sentenced at a later date. He faces up to 20 years in jail and caning for the offence of rape. He can be jailed up to seven years and fined for abduction.