SINGAPORE – A man was found guilty on Wednesday (Dec 28) of molesting his female student in 2018, when he was a driving instructor.
On another occasion, the two were driving towards the Lim Chu Kang area when the instructor, Soh Guan Hup, now 61, joked that he could rape the woman there and no one would know because it was "so quiet and dark", the prosecution said.
The woman, now 25, cannot be named owing to a gag order to protect her identity.
After a trial, District Judge Melissa Tan on Wednesday found Soh guilty of one count of molestation. He was given a discharge amounting to an acquittal on a second molestation charge involving the same woman.
This was because the judge felt that, among other things, the woman's evidence linked to the charge was lacking in detail. For instance, the woman could not recall if the car was moving or stationary when Soh purportedly molested her.
Those given such a discharge cannot be charged again with the same offence.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Koh Yi Wen said in the submissions that the woman attended 24 driving lessons with Soh between May 25, 2017, and March 3, 2018.
He would usually pick the woman up from a carpark near Bukit Gombak MRT station and she would then take her driving lessons using his car.
The lessons took place along driving test routes near the Bukit Batok Driving Centre, including the Lim Chu Kang area.
When the lessons ended, Soh would either drop the woman off at Bukit Gombak MRT station or at the void deck of her home.
DPP Koh said: "On March 3, 2018, the accused was giving the victim verbal instructions on parking while they were at a side road in the Choa Chu Kang area when the victim felt a nudging sensation on the left side of (her) breast, and it made (her) feel extremely uncomfortable.
"She was so affected by the incident that she was unable to park the car, and the accused had to grab the steering wheel."
The victim later sent text messages to her then boyfriend telling him that Soh had touched her.
The woman also told her parents some time between March 4 and 7, 2018, about what Soh had done to her.
The victim's father initially wanted to alert the police, while her mother tried to get more information from her. However, the victim did not provide details and chose not to make a police report.
On March 8, 2018, the woman and her then boyfriend confronted Soh before her final driving practice and test.
The DPP told the court: "Although the victim initially questioned the accused, she was caught off-guard by his reactions and denials... After the confrontation, the victim continued with her final driving practice under the accused before taking her driving test."
After the test, the woman paid Soh the rental fees for using his car. She did not have any interaction with him after that, said the prosecution.
The woman told a friend about her ordeal in December 2020.
He then told her: "Any cases of outrage of modesty can be reported at any point in time."
She made a police report on Dec 31, 2020.
Soh is represented by lawyer Bryan Lim and his defence was bare denial.
According to Soh, he had avoided making physical contact with the victim when they were driving as that would create a dangerous driving situation.
Soh also claimed that if he had made any physical contact with the victim during the lessons, it would have been accidental.
His mitigation and sentencing will take place on Feb 20, 2023.
For molestation, an offender can be jailed for up to two years, fined, caned or receive any combination of such punishments. However, Soh cannot be caned as he is over 50 years old.
This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.