MRT
Commuters exiting a Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) train at a station in Singapore.Reuters

The defence lawyer for a 24-year-old student accused of molesting a woman on a train in Toa Payoh in Singapore, has been ticked off by the judge for focusing on the size of the victim's breast at the court hearing. District Judge Shawn Ho said lawyer Edmund Wong Sin Yee's conduct was completely unacceptable.

The judge even went as far as to say that Wong deserved disapprobation and that his conduct fell short of expectations of lawyers.

Wong, was defending Xu Jiadong, a student from China for brushing his forearm against the breast of a 22-year-old woman in a train at the Toa Payoh MRT station on 9 July two years ago. Xu was found guilty and jailed for five months.

In his 44-page decision released last week, the judge said: "Sacrosanct is our right to travel on public transport unmolested."

Six of the pages on the judge's decision was targeted at Wong's conduct in court, The Straits Times reported. The judge described the manner in which Wong cross-examined the victim as "indecent, scandalous and forbidden in court under the Evidence Act."

According to the newspaper, Wong had, during the trial, asked the victim to stand up. When the judge asked him what he was trying to show, Wong replied: "Your Honour, I want to see ... how attractive [she is] when [she] stands up ..." The victim then asked whether this was necessary and that she found it offensive.

When Deputy Public Prosecutor Kong Kuek Foo asked Wong whether it was his case that only attractive women would get molested on the train. Wong replied: "If you get an old lady, you think people want to molest her? ... I want to show that if she is wearing a very low-cut [top] with a very voluptuous breast protruding out ... then of course ... the higher the tendency that people might commit such an offence."

Wong did not stop there. He continued: "So I'm trying to put my case that, you know, looking at the day [how] she was dressed and ... her breast size and all these things ... whether there is temptation for anybody or the accused to do such a thing."

Judge Ho slammed Wong's conduct, saying that he had "stared inappropriately at the victim's breasts", which he said was a grim reminder of what the accused Xu had subjected her to on the train. "It made the victim relive her odious experience. Distress was evoked, with the victim trying to hold back her tears in court."

The judge noted that although proceedings were immediately stopped, "the damage had been done." He criticised Wong for ignoring the victim's distress with his questioning and warned that the humiliation of victims of sexual crimes in court could discourage future victims from coming forward.

"Members of the Bar need to observe high standards of professional conduct and a proper sense of responsibility in the conduct of cases; if this is not done, the whole profession will suffer in the public's estimation.," Judge Ho said.