SINGAPORE — The gag order that masked the identity of an undergraduate convicted of illicitly filming 12 women was lifted on Friday (24 September) at the ruling of Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon.
Colin Chua Yi Jin, 23, had his name mentioned for the first time at his criminal motion held at the High Court, with CJ Menon noting that gag orders were never for the benefit or advantage of accused persons.
In Chua's case, all the 11 identified victims, aged between 20 and 23 currently, had been unanimous in their call for the gag order on his name to be removed. As the last victim was unknown, she could not give her consent.
The gag order had initially been imposed as there was a risk that the victims, all known to Chua, could be identified through him.
Currently, the gag order remains on the names of the victims, their relationship with Chua, and the location of the offences, including Chua's UK university.
The prosecution had first applied to have the gag order lifted during Chua's hearing on 29 July when he pleaded guilty. It told the court then that the victims felt the gag order was “more harmful than helpful”, and all had accepted the increased possibility of them being identified.
Some victims expressed guilt that it had prevented them from helping other possible victims.
The District Judge had agreed with the prosecution and ordered that the gag order only cover the names and information relating to the victims, prompting Chua to appeal the decision to the High Court.
Not for the benefit of the accused
The defence, represented by lawyer Kalidass Murugaiyan, argued against the lifting of the gag order, pointing out that the prosecution had once tried unsuccessfully to lift the gag order before, and that victim impact statements could not be used for such an application. The defence pointed out that the last victim had not given explicit consent.
Kalidass also noted that the removal of the gag order on the accused's name might deter potential victims from stepping forward.
But CJ Menon noted that this would suggest Chua's application was "altruistically for the benefit" of others when in truth Chua wanted the gag order maintained for his own benefit.
CJ Menon noted that gag orders were a "detraction from (the) principle of open justice" and that the court was given the power to impose the gag order in order to protect victims and encourage them to come forward.
Noting the expressed sentiments of the victims, CJ Menon said, "How can we logically extend the gag order in this case, when really the person who is asking for gag order is your client because he wants to take advantage of the protection that the gag order affords him? That is not the purpose of the gag order."
He stressed, "He may not want to have his identity disclosed, but this is absolutely not a relevant factor."
Deputy Public Prosecutor Nicholas Khoo also described the present application as "self-serving" and "borderline frivolous".
DPP Khoo said that the defence had cast aspersions on the investigating officer and the voluntariness of the victims in coming forward when there was no basis for the allegations. The prosecutor asked for costs of $2,000 to be ordered against the defence, which CJ Menon granted.
Chua's offences occurred between 2015 and 2019. He filmed an 18-year-old woman in the shower after their junior college’s prom night when the group of friends gathered in a hotel room.
In early 2016, the JC principal informed the woman that a video of her showering was circulating on porn websites. She lodged a police report and detailed her ordeal in a victim impact statement.
Among his other offences was the recording of a 19-year-old victim in a toilet in Chua's residence as she was relieving herself. He had invited her there for a Christmas gathering on 20 December 2016. Her video also ended up on a porn site.
Chua filmed another woman, 20, in a similar manner when she visited his residence in 2018. He set up a recording device under the sink to capture her urinating. He filmed two other women in his home toilet in another Christmas gathering in 2018.
Another victim, 21, visited him at his university in the UK, after he offered to give her a tour of his university. The woman used his toilet during the visit and Chua filmed her relieving herself.
Chua, who was earlier this week found unsuitable for probation, has not been sentenced. He will next appear in a pre-trial conference on 18 October.
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