2 men convicted of molesting male Grab driver on way home after night of drinking
- 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 found that the male victim’s evidence was convincing beyond a reasonable doubt
SINGAPORE — Two men were found guilty on Tuesday (July 5) of molesting a male private-hire driver who was ferrying them home after a night of drinking in 2018.
Singaporean Neo Wei Meng, 41, and Malaysian Goh Suet Hong, 40, were convicted after claiming trial to one charge each of outraging the modesty of the Grab driver.
The victim, then aged 28, cannot be named due to a court order to protect his identity.
Magistrate Hairul Hakkim Kuthibutheen had rejected Goh’s defence that he mistakenly believed the victim had consented, as well as Neo’s denial of having touched the victim at all.
Neo was employed as a freelance interior designer at the time, while Goh worked as a hairdresser. They have not been sentenced yet and will return to court on Thursday.
The two friends had gone out for drinks at a bar along Neil Road on Nov 11 in 2018 before booking a Grab ride to their respective homes.
Grab’s computer system then assigned their ride to a driver who picked them up around 1.30am. Both men sat in the rear passenger seats, with Goh directly behind the driver.
The driver testified during the trial that both men told him he was “very cute”. They also asked him: “Do you know God has sent us to pleasure you?”, and said they were both a “woman disguised as a man”.
While travelling along Central Expressway (CTE) 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. They stopped only when they spotted a police car.
When they got to Neo’s home, Neo alighted and Goh sat in the front passenger seat before the driver took him home.
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 other 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 lodge 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.
During their trial, they were both represented by Mr Kalaithasan Karuppaya from Regent Law LLC.
On Tuesday, Magistrate Hairul found that the victim’s testimony was unusually convincing enough to be the sole basis of convicting both men.
In contrast, Goh’s account of what had happened was “extremely incredible”, the judge said.
Goh testified that he was asleep during the first part of the journey, but woke up when his friend left. He admitted to moving to the front passenger seat and kissing the victim as well as rubbing his groin.
Magistrate Hairul said: “It defies logic that Goh suddenly decides to move to the front seat and be sexually excited all of a sudden.”
Goh had also said in his police statement: “I regret doing such acts on him and I was drunk during that time. I thought he was fine with what I did.” The judge noted that Goh gave this statement voluntarily.
As for the issue of consent, Magistrate Hairul noted that the victim was “very consistent” in testifying that he had repeatedly asked Goh to stop.
“If the victim truly consented to Goh’s sexual actions and as Goh claimed, 'I liked him and he liked me’, there’s no reason why he would suddenly dash away when it was safe for him to do so,” Magistrate Hairul said.
The magistrate also rejected Goh’s and Neo’s suggestion that the victim wanted to steal Goh’s belongings, given that the victim had handed all the items over to the police.
The judge then addressed the defence’s argument that the victim failed to seek help despite having ample chances to do so.
The victim had explained that he continued to drive because he was “terrified” of Goh and Neo, and was worried that his Grab account would be suspended if he terminated the trip prematurely. He had been driving for Grab only for a year and it was his only source of income.
He also testified that he feared not being able to pay the daily vehicle rental and not being able to drive when his account was deactivated.
Magistrate Hairul agreed with a higher court’s decision in another case that victims’ behaviour “cannot be straitjacketed in that they must act and react in a certain manner”.
“He was very consistent with his evidence and did not waver despite vigorous cross-examination. All in all, I find (his) details of assault to be unusually convincing because it does contain a ring of truth that leaves me with no reasonable doubt.Magistrate Hairul Hakkim Kuthibutheen”
The magistrate added: “He was very consistent with his evidence and did not waver despite vigorous cross-examination. All in all, I find (his) details of the assault to be unusually convincing because it does contain a ring of truth that leaves me with no reasonable doubt.”
Following the conviction, Deputy Public Prosecutor David Menon sought nine to 10 months' jail for Goh, and 14 to 15 months' jail and three strokes of the cane for Neo.
He pointed to aggravating factors such as the victim being a public transport worker and being trapped in an enclosed space where he could not take evasive action.
The prosecutor argued that because the victim was driving, Goh and Neo had taken advantage of his vulnerability and distracted him, which posed a safety hazard to the victim and other road users. Both accused persons were also voluntarily intoxicated.
Mr Karuppaya did not make submissions for a particular sentence, merely saying that he asked for leniency for his clients and that it would “leave a very bad mark on their lives in the future”.
The defence counsel also stated that the two men did not specifically get drunk to molest the victim.
Those convicted of molestation can be jailed for up to two years, fined, caned, or punished with any combination of the three.