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Judicial CP - August 2002
Straits Times, Singapore, 3 August 2002
Molest terror blows chance to reform
His life was back on track but JC student returned to crime; judge passes sentence of 18 years, 12 strokes
By Elena Chong
THREE years ago, then-16-year-old Siddharth Mujumdar made the news for molesting a string of young girls near his home and was dubbed the Terror of Yishun.
His lawyer pleaded then for the bright Secondary 4 boy to be put on probation, but Chief Justice Yong Pung How agreed with the district judge's sentence of reformative training, hoping it would 'shake him up'.
For a while, it seemed to have worked.
His principal and teachers at Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) supported him, he did well in his O levels, and he got into Catholic Junior College after his release at the end of 2000.
Yesterday, it all fell apart.
He was back in the High Court for preying on three girls, aged nine and 10. He had forced two of them to perform oral sex on him.
This time, he was sent to jail for 18 years, and ordered to be caned 12 times.
His mother, a Bombay-trained doctor, sank her head between her knees when Judicial Commissioner Choo Han Teck pronounced the sentence. The youth's father was ill and not in court.
Siddharth went back to his old ways in October last year, just 10 months after being released from the Reformative Training Centre and while he was still under supervision.
His family had moved to Simei, and that was where he struck, cornering his young victims at staircase landings and corridors in HDB blocks.
On Oct 3 last year, he waylaid a 10-year-old and molested her.
Two months later, he tricked a nine-year-old into accompanying him before attacking her.
On Jan 15, he found his third victim, a 10-year-old.
In all three cases, he used force, grabbing the girls and pulling their hair. He threatened to kill them if they did not do as he said.
On Jan 21, he was arrested at home, after one of the girls identified him from a school publication.
In remand since his arrest, Siddharth pleaded guilty yesterday to four charges of oral sex and aggravated molest.
The plea for leniency by his lawyer, Senior Counsel R. Palakrishnan, was much the same as that put up three years ago: That the only child of an educated and respectable family had been greatly affected by his paternal grandmother's murder in India in January 1994 and the family's subsequent move to Singapore.
And that the bright young man deserved a chance to make the best use of his life. Also, that his victims did not suffer permanent or long-term emotional harm.
Consultant psychiatrist Gwee Kok Peng reported that Siddharth had problems managing his emotions and sexuality, and dealing with his parents' expectations.
But Deputy Public Prosecutors Lim Yew Jin and Eugene Lee Yee Leng wanted Siddharth locked up for a long time.
DPP Lim described him as an 'inveterate menace' who had not learnt his lesson and clearly showed a 'propensity to commit sexual offences'.
JC Choo said during sentencing that it was a pity that a bright young man would spend 'the bloom of his youth' and such a long time behind bars.
'But it will be a greater tragedy if, upon release, you do not correct yourself because you may then need to spend the rest of your life in prison,' he added.
That was something the mother of one of the victims feared, when told last night of the 18-year jail term.
Noting that Siddharth would be in his 30s when freed, she said: 'He is a menace to society. What if he commits the same kind of offence against young children then?'
SADDENED: The man who tried to help
THE man who gave young molester Siddharth Mujumdar a second chance was shocked and saddened to learn that the youth had returned to his bad old ways.
Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) principal Ong Teck Chin told The Straits Times yesterday: 'He is a bright boy. And in school, he did not cause any problems and was, in fact, a polite and well-behaved boy. We had hoped that he had changed and was back on the right track.'
Dr Ong took some flak for standing by the teenager after he was convicted in 1999. He had allowed Siddharth, then a Secondary 4 student, to remain in the independent school pending his appeal, despite rumblings from parents and old boys who felt that publicity from the trial would harm the school.
When the boy lost his appeal in May 1999 and was sent for reformative training, his teachers sent him notes and practice test papers to help him prepare for the O-levels.
He went on to score three distinctions, doing well enough to enter a junior college. He joined Catholic Junior College last year, after leaving the Reformative Training Centre.
He was a courteous student who got on well with his classmates, said General Paper teacher Meera Gopal. In a note read out yesterday by his lawyer, Mr R. Palakrishnan, she said that he had an intellectual bent, was well-versed in world affairs and a persuasive and eloquent debater. 'He is intelligent and shows a level of maturity beyond his age,' she said.
The college declined to comment yesterday, beyond saying that the former-principal, Sister Maria Lau, knew of the youth's previous offences.
Students said that although there was talk of his previous offences, it was hard to believe because he seemed like a 'regular student'. A former-classmate said: 'He was a nice guy, no different from any of us. And he was one of the smart ones as well - in General Paper especially. His essays were very good.' --Sandra Davie
Copyright © 2002 Singapore Press Holdings. All rights reserved.
Straits Times, Singapore, 4 August 2002
Lock him up for good - Enraged mother of 11-year-old victim
By Chong Chee Kin
'I KNEW it!'
The words were practically spat out when the part-time hawker was told that her daughter's molester was the same Siddharth Mujumdar who terrorised Yishun three years ago.
Her daughter, 11, became one of Siddharth's latest victims less than a year after he was released from the Reformative Training Centre.
On Friday, he was sent to jail for 18 years and ordered to be caned 12 times for preying on three girls, aged nine and 10 then.
He had forced two of them to perform oral sex on him.
When told about the sentence, the mother exploded in rage. 'I will appeal to the police and my MP. The sentence is too light for him after what he had done. If it were up to me, he would be locked up for good,' she said, her hands clenched in anger.
Her daughter was on her way home from school in October last year when she was attacked by Siddharth. She was his first victim.
When she reached the lift landing of her block, she spotted Siddharth 'looking here and there' and refused to get into the same lift as him. She got into another lift, but he pounced on her when she got out of the lift, locking his arms around her neck.
He pushed her against the wall, kissed her and molested her. He also pulled her by the hair and dragged her down to the staircase landing.
He warned her not to tell anyone about the incident, and then fled. The girl ran to a neighbour and called her mother, who brought her to make a police report.
The mother said in Mandarin: 'I was shocked by what my daughter told me. She was in tears... I hate him for what he had done because she would have to live with it forever.'
Siddharth's three victims lived in the same neighbourhood, within walking distance from his home. They had seen him in their neighbourhood before. He had followed them and, when they avoided him, he pretended to go away before returning to prey on them.
One of his victims even took a different route home to shake him off when she spotted him following her, but he turned up behind her as she was climbing the staircase to her flat.
Siddharth was bold enough to block the path of a third victim who was on her bicycle. He pulled her off the bicycle, lied that he was not well and got her to accompany him to where he said he lived.
When they got out of the lift, he dragged her to a staircase landing. After he had fled, she ran crying to her two friends she had been playing with at the playground earlier.
The mother's tone softened when she spoke about her daughter and how she had been coping with the ordeal with the help of a police counsellor. 'She is managing well. She used to have nightmares and cries when she remembers the incident.'
After the attack, she got to know another victim who lived nearby and the two became good friends.
The mother said she first had her suspicions that her daughter's attacker was Siddharth when the police told her that the assailant was young and came from a good school.
She remembered the case because she felt he was an 'evil' person who got off lightly when his principal, teachers and parents pleaded for him.
'Now, he came out and went back to doing the same thing to young children,' she said.
She added that Siddharth never learnt his lesson because everyone was protecting him. 'Of course, he will do it again because he knows people will stand up for him and protect him. But my daughter will have to live with what he did to her forever,' she said.
Asked what she would do if Siddharth and his parents apologised, she said there was no point as the damage had already been done.
'How can they have any idea of the anguish I feel? Let them have a daughter and see how they react if someone did to her the same thing their son did to my daughter. Sorry doesn't mean anything,' she said.
Straits Times, Singapore, 14 August 2002
Friend killed in tiff over loan
UNEMPLOYED Syed Mohamad Redza Syed Shaik Alsagoff, 25, wanted to celebrate his birthday in a big way.
So he borrowed $1,500 from a loan shark and asked his friend, odd-job labourer Salehudden Ibrahim, 22, to act as his guarantor.
The trouble is, he did not return the money and avoided his friend's frantic calls - and the two got into a fight which ended with Mohamad Redza getting stabbed on Nov 8 last year.
Salehudden, who was arrested in Pasir Ris on Jan 3, was sentenced to eight years' jail and 12 strokes of the cane by the High Court yesterday for culpable homicide.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Imran Abdul Hamid said that Salehudden had called Mohamad Redza's home several times before Nov 8.
When they met near Block 501, Bedok North Street 3, in the afternoon, a dispute broke out, which led to the stabbing.
Mohamad Redza, who was injured in the chest and forearm, ran along the road and got into a passing car which took him to Bedok Neighbourhood Police Centre.
He died in hospital the same day.
Salehudden's lawyer, Mr Subhas Anandan, said it was Mohamad Redza who had the knife and did the attacking.
Salehudden, who had slight cuts on his arms and scratches on his face and neck, had grabbed the knife from him and stabbed him, he claimed.
As for the knife, it was nowhere to be found.
DPP Imran said Salehudden told the police he had thrown the knife into the reservoir along Bedok Reservoir Road but divers were unable to find it.
The New Paper, Singapore, 26 August 2002
Psychiatrists and lawyers can't agree on treatment
What if sex fiends are sick?
By Andre Yeo
Shortly after completing an eight-year preventive detention sentence, he kidnapped and molested three girls between May and December last year.
On Aug 12, he was sentenced to 20 years' preventive detention and will be caned 15 times.
On Aug 2, he was sentenced to 18 years' jail and will be caned 12 times.
WONG SIU FAI
Last May, he got to know the family of a five-year-old boy through a friend who had rented a room in the family's apartment.
A month later, the 36-year-old man again got drunk and molested and performed oral sex on the kindergarten pupil.
He was jailed six years.
LEE KOK SAN
That July, Chief Justice Yong Pung How imposed a 17-year preventive detention term on him. Two months later, he was in court for raping a girl repeatedly over five years since she was about nine.
He was jailed 19 years.
THEY have already been convicted of heinous sex crimes against children and women.
But after committing the same offences again and again, should such repeat sex offenders be treated as criminals or as sick people?
Siddharth Mujumdar, 20, better known as the Yishun Terror, has something in common with serial child kidnapper and molester, Kenneth Nicholas, 48: They are unable to control their sexual urges and prey on the innocent.
Both were recently slapped with lengthy sentences in court after they were convicted of sex offences yet again.
When The New Paper spoke to eight lawyers and psychiatrists, they were divided about the issue.
They felt there was a fine line between crook and patient.
Lawyer Ahmad Nizam Abbas, 34, said they should be punished for committing a crime, but should also be treated if they were sick.
"They are criminals and should be put away in penal institutions to protect the public. But psychiatrists and psychologists should be consulted on what kind of treatment they need."
If we don't punish them, it might appear as if we are "protecting the offender", added the lawyer.
"We must protect the public. That is the overriding consideration."
Another lawyer, Peter Yap, 55, felt there may be cases where "medical treatment may be the more appropriate course of action".
But he added: "If you get genuine sexual offenders, they should be punished."
According to psychiatric reports, Nicholas has a personality disorder and an abnormal sex drive directed at pre-adolescent girls.
A consultant psychiatrist reported that Siddharth had problems managing his emotions and sexuality, and dealing with his parents' expectations.
Lawyer Gloria James said she sympathises with people like them.
"They should be treated more like sick people because there is a mental element involved. They have a mental problem."
In an e-mail reply to The New Paper, the Prisons Department said that a structured group treatment programme for sex offenders was introduced in 2001.
Under this programme, offenders are taught skills to better understand themselves, on how to cope with their sexual urges, and to develop greater victim empathy.
Those who are unable to take part in this group programme may get individual treatment.
A MIXED GROUP
On whether sex offenders have the toughest time when it comes to changing their ways, the department's head of psychological branch, Mr Timothy Leo, said: "People who commit sexual offences are a mixed group. As such, sex offenders vary in their levels of risk for re-offending.
"Their treatment needs also differ depending on the offender, the nature of the sexual offence and the context in which the offence occurred.
"Part of the prison rehabilitation process is also to motivate offenders to change. For some, the impetus to change is difficult. But others have begun the process, and that can serve as an encouragement."
However, when it comes to paedophilia, or sexual desire directed towards children, psychiatrist Dr Lionel Lim said it should be treated early as it requires long-term treatment.
Said Dr Lim, 46: "Many of them were sexually abused themselves and that has betrayed their trust between child and adult. They might not be able to form mature relationships with adults and, therefore, turn their attention towards young children."
Another psychiatrist said there should not be any generalisations made against such offenders.
Dr Sharon Chan, 43, said: "Some intend to do what they do with no remorse towards their victims. Some are ill and are just impulsive. The motivation for doing what they do is not evil. They have a psychiatric illness where they don't think coherently or don't think through what they do."
In responding to the issue, parents with young children had no doubts how repeat sex offenders should be dealt with: Lock them up for a very long time.
Ms Jennifer Wong, 30, who has a 4-year-old daughter, said : "I do believe in reformation but if people exploit that chance, then they should be locked up and kept away from us."
Housewife, Mrs Grace Anthony, who has three children aged between 14 months and 5 years old, said such criminals should be on medication to curb their urges. But if they don't take their medication and terrorise the public, then the Law must come down hard on them.
She added: "Ever since those two cases, I am more alert around my children. I make sure they are never out of my sight."
But psychiatrist, Yam Keng Mun, 49, said that while sex offenders should be punished, they should not be neglected when in prison.
He said: "They should be medically treated because, in the end, people are important to society. We must try to rehabilitate them or we might not solve the problem."
WHY SEX OFFENDERS SHOULD NOT BE TAGGED
LET'S say a sex offender is released after serving a sentence.
Would it be fair to keep the person under close surveillance?
There is a scheme in the Prisons Department which allows prisoners to be electronically monitored from home (above).
This practice of "tagging" offenders is to help them reintegrate into society, and discipline them at the same time.
So, by extension, could sex offenders be tagged when they are released from jail?
Lawyer Peter Yap was totally against it, saying: "It's not fair to those who are genuinely remorseful. Do we condemn them for the rest of their lives?
"But for repeat offenders, the argument for remorse is less and the opportunity for rehabilitation is also less."
Lawyer Gloria James agreed: "Tagging them forever is not a good idea because you are not giving them a chance to rehabilitate."
The Prisons Department has a Tail-End Home Detention scheme that was set up in April 2000.
It allows prisoners who have committed minor offences to serve the tail end of their imprisonment at home, while being subject to an electronically-monitored curfew.
A monitoring unit is attached to the inmate's home phone and an alarm will be triggered if he is not home during his curfew hours.
As at 31 July 2002, 99.8 per cent of the 1,432 inmates on the scheme have completed it without any breaches. Once discharged, they are no longer tagged.
"High risk" prisoners serving life imprisonment, offenders of serious or violent crimes and drug and sexual offenders are not eligible for the scheme.
MALAYSIA:Over the past four years, there have been at least 600 cases of incest reported there and most of the culprits were the victims' fathers, brothers and uncles.
There have been calls to amend the Penal Code to increase the penalty against those who commit incest, even suggestions to castrate culprits.
US:Many American states and counties have their own on-line sex offenders registries where the particulars of sex offenders are published over the Internet.
The Alaska Department of Public Safety has a website that lists the photos, addresses and convictions of sex offenders.
TAIWAN:More than 80 per cent of Taiwanese want sex offenders to be identified to improve public security. Some even feel such offenders should wear 'sex offender' labels on their clothes.
The New Paper, Singapore, 27 August 2002
Revenge hunt fails, so 14 gang members ...
Punch, kick, step on boy, 15 in MRT train
By Andre Yeo
ON Aug 6, Mohammad Faizal Ali, 21, was jailed four years and eight months.
He will get nine strokes of the cane for rioting and for having sex with a 15-year-old girl.
Abdul Razak Senawi, 16, was jailed three-and-a-half years, with six strokes of the cane for rioting.
Two 15-year-olds and two 14-year-olds were also sentenced for rioting and theft.
They will serve their probation at the Singapore Boys' Home.
The cases of five others will be mentioned today.
Three of the assailants are still at large.
A GANG of youths, emboldened by their numbers, stopped strangers at Orchard MRT station to ask if they belonged to a rival gang.
They wanted revenge after one of their own members was assaulted. When they couldn't find any, the group of 14 filed into the last cabin of a train bound for Boon Lay.
It was 11.20pm on May 18.
When the train was going towards Dover from Buona Vista, one member of the group - which included Abdul Razak Senawi, 16, and Mohammad Faizal Ali, 21 - spotted a 15-year-old student standing in the same cabin.
One boy started imitating the student's posture and another whispered to Mohammad that the boy had threatened his friend before.
Mohammad confronted the boy and accused him of being the member of a rival gang. He denied it.
Then out of nowhere, someone from the group punched the boy on the head. Another whacked him in the face and Mohammad followed suit - boxing the student three times in the face as horrified passengers looked on.
The force was so great the boy fell back against the driver's door and slumped to the floor. Mohammad and others then took turns to kick and step on his face and body.
One of them stole his wallet holding his identity card, bus pass, $2 cash and an MRT TransitLink card. At Dover, all 14 assailants ran out of the train and fled the scene.
The boy was left with swollen ears and nose, and haemorrhage in the eyes. He was taken to the National University Hospital after a member of the public called the police.
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