SINGAPORE — A young lawyer who claimed to be dealing with work-related stress decided to film his neighbor in the shower on two occasions by climbing over the parapet of his townhouse to get a better view, a court heard on Thursday (Aug 18).
When he was caught, Nicholas Yeo Shao Yi told investigators that he began experiencing this stress when the blackout period, which restricted movement and activities due to the Covid-19 pandemic, came into effect in April 2020.
On Thursday, the 32-year-old Singaporean was sentenced in a district court to 12 weeks in prison. He has since left the legal profession.
He pleaded guilty to two counts of voyeurism. Two additional charges of criminal trespass were taken into consideration for sentencing.
The court heard Yeo and the victim, who cannot be named due to a gag order to protect her identity, lived in neighboring houses at the time of Yeo’s offenses.
Their quarters shared a wall and the toilet next to the bedroom of her home looked out onto a small balcony.
At around 19:00 on November 23, 2020, the 26-year-old woman took a shower in the toilet with her mobile phone playing videos at high volume.
Yeo knew at the time that his neighbor had such a habit. Hearing the sound of her phone, Yeo climbed out of his window and over the parapet leading to her balcony to film her.
As she dried herself with a towel, she saw his arm stretched out through an open window, holding an iPhone.
When she shouted, he escaped by climbing the wall separating their balconies and returned to his home. She got dressed before telling her husband what had happened.
The pair then went over to Yeo’s home to confront him, where he continued to apologize and asked them to keep his voice down. He also asked if they could solve the matter in another way or talk in another place.
The victim found no incriminating material on his cell phones when he offered them to her for inspection, but he called the police anyway.
Yeo had failed to take a video on this occasion, but he subsequently admitted that several months earlier he had managed to film her and subsequently deleted the footage.
Investigations revealed he committed both offenses because he had “experienced work-related stress since the advent of the circuit breaker”, Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Yvonne Poon told the court.
DPP Poon did not elaborate on what made him feel stressed at work.
Further forensic examinations of his other electronic devices, including a laptop computer, revealed no further obscene content.
GOING INTO A ‘VERY DIFFICULT PERIOD’: LAWYER
DPP Poon, who asked for 12 to 15 weeks in jail, noted that similar video footage offending a woman’s modesty usually attracted 10 to 12 weeks in prison under an old provision in the penal code that has since been repealed.
Those convicted can be jailed for up to a year, while those who commit voyeurism – a new offense under the Penal Code which entered into force in January 2020 – can be imprisoned for up to two years.
The prosecutor did not seek double the usual sentence, despite the amended law. She also noted that Yeo “demonstrated observable remorse” and had no previous criminal convictions.
In mitigation, Yeo’s defense lawyer Shashi Nathan asked District Judge Eddy Tham to consider his personal circumstances.
“He’s a young man who had a very good career ahead of him, good prospects. As a result of this action, this mistake, this belief, that career is by all means over,” Mr. Nathan said.
He added that Yeo now works in a private firm and that he had left the legal profession on his own, which he said showed “self-awareness”. Nevertheless, Yeo may also face disciplinary action brought by the Law Society of Singapore, Nathan said.
The defense lawyer also told the court that Yeo is remorseful and wants a fresh start.
“He was going through a very difficult period in his life, both personally and professionally, and he was unable to control his impulses,” Nathan added.
‘BIG STRETCH’ TO SAY HE WANTED TO RELIEVE STRESS
In sentencing Yeo, District Judge Tham ruled that the level of intrusion was high and that the harm was great as the victim was filmed completely naked in the privacy of her own home.
The judge also said it was a “big stretch” to say Yeo could relieve his stress by filming his neighbor in the shower.
The judge then noted that he came clean when confronted, admitted his offenses on the same day and revealed his past action, although no recording was found on his phone.
District Judge Tham praised Yeo for the steps he has taken to show remorse, adding that he trusted Yeo would be able to make a “fresh and clean start” after his release.
For each voyeurism offense, Yeo could have been jailed for up to two years, fined, fined, or punished with any combination of the three.