SINGAPORE, Sept 13 — An architecture student from the National University of Singapore (NUS) first filmed up the skirts of his female colleagues while on an internship in 2016.
Then, in March and May last year, Joel Rasis Ismail took videos of four female students showering in the women’s toilets of a residential hall.
This was despite him knowing that similar voyeurism cases that happened on campus were in the spotlight. He changed clothes to avoid detection, but he ended up still being caught with the help of closed-circuit television camera footage.
On Friday, the 27-year-old Singaporean pleaded guilty to four charges of insulting a woman’s modesty and criminal trespass.
District Judge Adam Nakhoda will consider seven similar charges when sentencing him on Sept 28.
At the time of his offences, Joel lived at Kuok Foundation House, located within NUS’ Raffles Hall. He is now a fifth-year undergraduate.
All of his victims cannot be named due to court orders to protect their identities.
In a statement, an NUS spokesperson said that in June last year, a board of discipline convened by the university imposed a range of disciplinary sanctions on Joel. These include a three-semester suspension, mandatory counselling and rehabilitation sessions.
He is now not allowed on campus and the sanctions will be part of his formal education record.
The university will also look into whether he had committed more offences, and may convene another board to inquire into them.
The spokesperson said that NUS enhanced its disciplinary framework for sexual misconduct offences since June last year. “Students who have breached NUS statutes and regulations face severe sanctions, including suspension and expulsion,” he added.
What he did
The court heard that Joel first struck in June 2016.
While his female colleague was speaking to someone else in their office, he took two videos by placing his mobile phone on a chair before holding it below her skirt.
He was not caught at the time.
In March last year, he was visiting a female friend who stayed on a “females only” floor at the Kuok Foundation House. Men were banned from entering.
When he went to a women’s toilet to relieve himself, he heard someone showering and decided to film her.
He did the same to another victim, leaving the toilet undetected.
Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Andre Ong said that he kept the video clip for a few days, rewatching it to “boost his libido,” before deleting it sometime later.
On May 11 last year, he again entered Kuok Foundation House through an unsecured door that was left ajar. He visited his female friend and did his laundry there.
While waiting at the lift lobby at his friend’s floor, he noticed that the lift had stopped at a different floor, which was also designated for females only. He went to that floor and heard the sound of running water coming from a women’s toilet, then entered it.
When he realised his attempt to record a video was unsuccessful, he returned but the victim heard him. She shouted: “Who are you?”
Joel fled, retrieving his laundry and changing his clothes to evade detection. The victim managed to identify his back profile and told the hall manager what had happened.
Joel ran back to his room at Block 2 of Raffles Hall and deleted the video clip he had taken.
The police tracked his movements from closed-circuit television footage and arrested him a few hours later. He initially denied any wrongdoing but later admitted to his offences.
An Institute of Mental Health psychiatrist found that he suffered from “transient voyeuristic sexual interest”, but did not have any psychiatric or paraphilic disorder at the time.
A person with a paraphilic disorder is preoccupied with fantasising about and engaging in atypical sexual behaviour that is distressing or threatens to cause harm to someone else.
‘Sang like a bird’ to authorities
DPP Ong sought 12 weeks’ jail and a fine of S$1,500 (RM4,554). He noted that despite knowing about the Monica Baey case, which made headlines and sparked public debate in March last year, Joel committed more offences.
Baey, a fellow NUS undergraduate, had taken to Instagram to talk about being filmed showering in a university hall in 2018.
Joel’s lawyer, Malcolm Tan, asked for a short detention order coupled with a community service order.
Offenders given a detention order will serve up to two weeks behind bars but will not have a criminal record when they are released.
Tan said that his client cooperated fully with the authorities and “sang like a bird,” providing the police with numerous electronic devices such as 15 thumb-drives.
But DPP Ong said Joel did that after being questioned, and admitted to his offences only after forensic investigators examined his devices.
As for his mental state, Tan said that Joel “has real psychological problems dating back to 2015.” He went to Jurong Polyclinic to see a doctor for depression and insomnia symptoms, and was excused from his duties by Singapore Armed Forces medical officers.
“I also highlighted that he has really done well in school. He was a promising architect. He’s really thrown all this away. He has lost so much. Lecturers and professors have told him he will unlikely be able to practise as an architect,” Tan added.
Joel could no longer go to Raffles Hall after committing the offences and he has since moved back in with his family.
They have been helping to pay back his scholarship with the university, the lawyer said.
For insulting a woman’s modesty, Joel could be jailed up to a year or fined, or both. For criminal trespass, he could be jailed up to three months or fined up to S$1,500, or both. — TODAY