2 men get jail time, caning for 'repeatedly and mercilessly' molesting male Grab driver
- Goh Suet Hong and Neo Wei Meng had contested a charge each of molesting a Grab driver
- Both men were found guilty of doing so in November 2018
- A judge called the incident a "harrowing ordeal" for the victim, who is now afraid of facing strangers
- Goh and Neo indicated that they will appeal against their convictions and sentences
SINGAPORE — After a night of drinking, Neo Wei Meng and Goh Suet Hong told their male private-hire driver he was “very cute” and also said, “Do you know God has sent us to pleasure you?”
The pair proceeded to molest the 28-year-old victim while he was ferrying them to Neo's home. Goh then continued molesting the victim after Neo alighted.
The victim continued driving because he was terrified of his assailants and he was worried that his Grab account would be suspended if he terminated the trip early, a court heard earlier this week.
On Thursday (July 7), Neo, a 41-year-old Singaporean, was sentenced to 14 months' jail and three strokes of the cane for the incident that took place in 2018.
Goh, a 40-year-old Malaysian, was sentenced to 12 months' jail and two strokes of the cane.
Both men indicated that they will file appeals against their convictions and sentences.
They were found guilty on Tuesday of one charge each of outraging the modesty of the victim, who cannot be named due to a court order to protect his identity.
They had claimed trial to the offences, with Goh claiming that he mistakenly believed the victim had consented and Neo denying he had touched the victim at all.
Magistrate Hairul Hakkim Kuthibutheen rejected their defences and found that the victim's testimony was convincing beyond a reasonable doubt.
CANNOT FACE STRANGERS ANYMORE
In his sentencing remarks on Thursday, the judge recounted the victim's testimony during the trial, noting that the incident "left an indelible mark" on him.
Magistrate Hairul added: "In the words of the victim, he expressed that he still feels 'traumatised' and is unable to face strangers anymore.
"At one point, he even went as far as to say, 'Even today, when I'm doing my Foodpanda delivery, I do not dare to face the customers. So I just hang the food on the door and just run away'."
The judge described how an ordinary night had "turned into a harrowing ordeal" for the victim. He now drives only during the day and for a few hours.
"He was repeatedly and mercilessly molested by the accused persons throughout the Grab journey despite his pleas for them to stop," Magistrate Hairul told the court.
The judge noted several aggravating factors in sentencing both men, including their voluntary intoxication and molesting the victim while he was still driving, which presented a safety hazard to the victim and other road users.
The magistrate found that Neo's actions were more aggravated due to his prolonged skin-to-skin contact with the victim, among other factors.
However, he stressed that Goh would likely have received a heavier sentence if the prosecution chose to charge him for his actions during the first leg of the journey. Goh's molestation charge covers only what he did during the second leg.
Magistrate Hairul added that it was not the role of the court to question why the prosecution did this.
Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) David Menon had told the court that the prosecution's position on Neo's sentence — 14 to 15 months' jail and three strokes of the cane — remains the same.
However, the prosecutor revised his proposal for Goh's sentence, which previously did not include caning.
In seeking two strokes of the cane for Goh, DPP Menon also asked for a higher jail term of 12 to 13 months.
He told Magistrate Hairul that Goh deserves caning due to the prolonged nature of Goh's molestation acts, despite the contact with the victim not being skin-to-skin.
Mr Kalaithasan Karuppaya, who defended both men, asked for the lower end of the prosecution's proposed sentences along with no caning.
Those convicted of molestation can be jailed for up to two years, fined, caned, or punished with any combination of the three.
The two men had gone out for drinks at a bar along Neil Road in the Tanjong Pagar area on Nov 11 in 2018 before booking a Grab ride to their respective homes. Neo was a freelancer interior designer at the time, while Goh worked as a hairdresser.
When the victim picked them up around 1.30am, both men sat in the back with Goh directly behind the driver.
The driver testified during the trial that Goh and Neo said that they were both a “woman disguised as a man”.
While travelling along Central Expressway on the way to Neo’s Hougang home, Goh then began touching the driver's chest and rubbing the driver’s groin over his trousers.
The driver told him to stop, but Neo then unzipped the driver's pants and performed a sex act on him. When the driver also told him to stop, Neo persisted and licked his cheek and ear.
After some time, they switched their actions despite the victim’s repeated pleas to stop. They stopped only when they spotted a police car.
When they got to Neo’s home, Neo alighted and Goh moved to the front passenger seat.
During this leg of the journey to Punggol, Goh then touched the victim’s thigh, kissed his cheek and the side of his lip, and rubbed the man’s groin over his pants.
The victim testified that he also tried to resist this to no avail.
Upon reaching the drop-off location, Goh told the driver to enter a multi-storey car park. The victim had already declined Goh’s request to spend more time with him after reaching the destination.
Goh then alighted and asked the driver to wait while he relieved himself, but the victim drove away. The mode of payment for the ride was cash but the driver did not collect the fare.
The driver called the Grab hotline to report the incident and was told to make a police report. He then did so at Punggol Neighbourhood Police Centre.
He also handed over Goh’s belongings that had been left in the vehicle, including a few debit cards, a Malaysian driving licence, iPhone, branded Versace bag and Goh’s National Registration Identity Card.
Goh and Neo were arrested that same day.