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Man convicted of possessing 280 films of women in changing rooms

SINGAPORE — A 27-year-old sales engineer was the first among five accused to be convicted on Thursday (Sept 21) of possessing obscene films of women in changing rooms and bathrooms, which were shared with members of an online forum.

SINGAPORE — A 27-year-old sales engineer was the first among five accused to be convicted on Thursday (Sept 21) of possessing obscene films of women in changing rooms and bathrooms, which were shared with members of an online forum.

Joel Chew Weichen, who pleaded guilty to one charge under the Films Act, will be sentenced later. The police had found 280 obscene films in his possession, which showed women using the toilet or removing their clothes in changing rooms.

This is also the first prosecution involving members of a "large online community", where such voyeuristic films targeting girls and women using facilities such as changing rooms, bathrooms and toilets were being shared and distributed.

The court heard that Ali had set up a Google Group known as SG Horizon Club late last year to allow members to share sexually-themed films with each other. Within a few months, Horizon reached a peak of about 200 members.

Four others — Ali V P Mohamed, 46; Shaun Le, 28; Clarence Tang Jia Ming, 25; and Ong Yi Jie, 27 — were arrested in connection with the case and face several more charges, including those under the Films Act, for using words or gestures intended to insult the modesty of women and other offences. Their cases are still before the courts.

Several of the films shared on the forum were filmed with hidden cameras that were placed in places such as the toilets in Starbucks and McDonald's, schools and offices, bathrooms and changing rooms of popular fashion outlets, as well as bathroom showers of private homes, said Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Tang Shangjun.

The films captured unsuspecting women and girls, including those in school uniform, in various states of undress, using the toilet or taking showers.

Chew was invited to join Horizon while he was a member of Little SG — a group similar to Horizon — and Sammyboy Forum. Through these platforms, he downloaded and shared such videos with other members.

To "build his collection of hidden camera films", Chew also uploaded films from his own collection to trade because some members were only willing to provide new material if Chew sent them films in exchange, DPP Tang said.

The police eventually recovered four hard drives from Chew after raiding his place on Nov 25 last year. They had received a report from a Ministry of Education officer that month that such films were being circulated on Sammyboy Forum.

Urging the court to impose a jail term of at least six months, DPP Tang said a strong precedent should be set that such behaviour, especially under the cover of anonymity provided by the Internet, is not tolerated in society.

He cited several aggravating factors, such as how Chew and other members had engaged in a "self-perpetuating cycle" where the more films one had, the more one would be able to trade to grow his collection.

The case has also caused significant public disquiet as many of the films were filmed in areas that are accessible to many people, such as public toilets and changing rooms in popular fashion retailers, DPP Tang said.

Chew will be sentenced on Oct 5. For possessing an obscene film for distribution, he could face a fine of not less than S$2,000 for each such film (but up to S$80,000), or jailed up to two years, or both.

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