SINGAPORE — A Grab driver accused of molesting two girls in his vehicle on separate occasions is alleged to have rubbed the knee of the older girl while fetching her to a slumber party.
Lom Mun Hoi, 47, is alleged to have turned around when the car stopped at traffic lights and rubbed the girl’s knee. He also touched her cheeks upon reaching her destination in Yishun.
The Singaporean is contesting three charges of molesting a person under 14 years old. One charge relates to the 10-year-old girl. He is accused of touching the girl’s knees twice in a car at about 2.13pm on 25 August 2017.
The other two charges related to a seven-year-old girl. Lom is charged with touching her groin twice over her dress about 10 minutes apart on the afternoon of 14 June 2017 while in a car. The car was at Tampines Mall on one occasion.
The victims cannot be named due to a gag order protecting their identity. Yahoo News Singapore understands that Lom has been suspended from Grab since 2017.
The trial opened on Tuesday (13 July) with a psychiatrist from the Institute of Mental Health’s Child Guidance Clinic taking the stand as a prosecution witness.
Dr Bernadine Woo Siew Choo said that she was requested by the police to assess if the 10-year-old girl was fit to testify and the impact the alleged incident had on her.
Under examination by Deputy Public Prosecutor Deborah Lee, Dr Woo said that she interviewed the girl and her mother on 15 January 2018. The senior consultant then set out the interview findings in her report.
According to the report, the girl had booked a Grab car on a Friday afternoon to go to a friend’s home in Yishun for a slumber party.
When the car arrived, the girl placed her luggage in the car boot before taking a seat behind the front passenger seat.
Lom, who was driving the car, then asked her where she was going and where she lived, but the girl lied about her own address. He said he would look for her and take her to McDonald's.
The report stated that when the car reached a traffic light, Lom turned around, stretched out his hand and touched the girl's knee. He then rubbed it up and down and asked the girl why her dog was licking her. It emerged later in the trial that the girl had brought her dog along to the slumber party.
When the car was at another traffic light, Lom allegedly turned around again and rubbed the girl’s right knee.
He then asked her which turn he should take to her friend’s home before touching her left cheek and asking her to behave well. He then gave her three sweets. The girl felt afraid and immediately alighted.
She told her friend about the incident and her friend’s parents informed the alleged victim’s mother, who brought her to lodge a police report.
“(The victim) also told me that she has been fearful since the alleged outrage of modesty. So I guess she was feeling scared after the event. Otherwise she was eating or sleeping well,” said Dr Woo. According to her assessment, the girl was fit to testify in court.
Asked about the girl’s demeanour as she recalled the incident, Dr Woo said the girl could give her account “quite fluently”.
During Dr Woo’s cross examination, Lom’s lawyer Riko Isaac Chua asked if it was possible that the girl could have formed inaccurate views after speaking to others about the incident.
Dr Woo replied that “what she told me was quite consistent with the police statement which was taken quite soon after the incident, so I don’t think it was very different.”
Chua also asked if it was possible that the police statement, which Dr Woo had read ahead of her interview with the girl, could have influenced the psychiatrist’s assessment of the girl's consistency.
Dr Woo replied that her report was based on the interview rather than the statement. “If there was something inconsistent in the interview I would still write that in my report,” she added.
The defence lawyer then asked why the police statement mentioned Lom and the alleged victim discussing Facebook, while the psychiatrist had not included that in her report.
Dr Woo suggested that the girl might have forgotten the detail or believed it was less significant. Dr Woo added that she only realised the missing detail when she re-read through the police statement before her court appearance.
Girl's friend and friend's parents testify
In the afternoon, the girl’s friend, and both of the friend’s parents testified to what happened when the girl arrived at their house for the slumber party after the alleged molest.
The girl’s friend said that she invited the girl for the slumber party and the latter arrived with her small dog and luggage in tow. The girl had not immediately confided in her friend about the incident, but had waited until they were alone before doing so.
The friend’s mother said that she was “shocked” the girls had brought the topic up as she had not prompted them. When the mother asked the alleged victim how she arrived, the girl replied she took a Grab before the girls claimed that the driver had touched the alleged victim.
As the account had come “naturally”, the mother did not doubt the alleged victim, she said.
After the friend’s parents learned about the incident from the girls, they agreed to file a complaint with Grab.
Asked about the girl’s demeanour that day, the friend’s father said, “This is not the first time I saw her in my house… she comes to my home quite often during that time. During that day when I saw her I feel that it’s like different, (she was) a bit lost compared to normal days, you see.”
The trial will continue at a later date.
If convicted of molesting a person under 14, Lom may be jailed up to five years, and/or fined, and/or caned.
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