5 Jan 2005
Couple fined for indecent act
A couple who had oral sex at a staircase in Orchard Towers were each fined $500 yesterday for indecent behaviour.
Singaporean Aruselvan Krishnadas, 32, a security officer, and Filipina Esmeralda Feliciano Dalida, 41, who works here as a maid, were caught in the act by a security guard.
A magistrate's court heard that the pair had met on the afternoon of July 4 last year at a tea dance party at a pub in Middle Road.
They went to Orchard Towers for dinner and later proceeded to the Level 3 staircase of the building to have oral sex.
At about 7.30pm, a cleaner approached a security guard to report noises coming from the staircase.
On checking, Mr Ramli Zakaria saw Dalida perform oral sex on Aruselvan. He shouted at them to stop and called the police.
The maximum punishment for indecent behaviour, an offence under the Miscellaneous Offences (Public Order and Nuisance) Act, is a $1,000 fine or one month in jail.
8 Jan 2005
Straits Times Forum page
Was indecent behaviour the correct charge?
I read the report 'Couple fined for indecent act' (ST, Jan 5). The pair went to Orchard Towers and proceeded to the Level 3 staircase to have oral sex. A cleaner who heard noises from the staircase alerted a security guard who checked and caught the pair in the act. They were fined $500 each for indecent behaviour.
What interests me is the term 'indecent behaviour' on which they were charged and convicted. According to the report, indecent behaviour comes under the Miscellaneous Offences (Public Order and Nuisance) Act.
It would be understandable if they were charged under the act forbidding oral sex. It would also be understandable if they were charged with committing such an act in a public place (the Level 3 staircase).
What puzzles is the charge of indecent behaviour. Where does the indecency come in?
Both oral sex and sex per se in a public place are covered by law and can be applied according to law.
However, for something to be indecent it has to be witnessed by someone else who unwittingly passes the public area and is upset by the behaviour.
As far as I see, the couple took pains to conceal themselves on a deserted third-level staircase. The act did not take place in an area of constant or regular public traffic, so as not to be seen by anyone.
In other words, there was no intention to make a show of their actions. They were caught only because of a cleaner who informed a security guard.
The guard went to the place where the action was taking place (as was his duty to investigate). He was not invited there, by the couple, to see the show. Under such circumstances, where concealment was the order of the day (or the night), where was the indecency?
A thief who commits the felony of breaking into and entering a house with intent to steal is charged with the relevant felony, not with dishonest behaviour.
In like manner, why were the couple not charged with oral sex or sex in a public area?
An act without a spectator cannot be indecent because indecency arises from someone seeing it and being morally offended. There was no intention to display the action to the guard who encroached on the act and it was the intention, at all times, to avoid detection.
Is a girl's modesty outraged if she is unaware of a naked man on a deserted staircase? There must be awareness before modesty is outraged.
13 Jan 2005
Straits Times Forum,page
Indecent behaviour: Couple charged correctly
I refer to the letter, 'Was indecent behaviour the correct charge?' (ST, Jan 8), by Mr Dudley Au.
The couple pleaded guilty to indecent behaviour in a public place, an offence under Section 20 of the Miscellaneous Offences (Public Order and Nuisance) Act.
Mr Au takes the view that the charge was misconceived because the act was not witnessed by anyone.
We do not agree with him. If the charge was misconceived, the court would not have convicted the accused.
The couple carried out the indecent act at a staircase at Orchard Towers to which the public had access. They were in fact discovered by a member of the public. The staircase was also lit at all times.
Cheng Howe Ming
Head, Public Affairs Unit
17 Jan 2005
Straits Times Forum page
Reply doesn't answer query on indecency charge
The response ('Indecent behaviour: couple charged correctly', ST, Jan 13) from Mr Cheng Howe Ming, head of the Public Affairs Unit in the Attorney-General's Chambers, to my letter has left me bemused.
The query in my letter, 'Was indecent behaviour the correct charge?' (ST, Jan 8), was how does indecency come into the picture? Sex per se is not indecent. It becomes indecent only when linked to other factors which offend morals.
Mr Cheng states that if the charge was misconceived, the court would not have convicted. In any successful appeal, the usual result is to have the previous court's judgment overthrown. And if it is overthrown, then it can be reasonably said to have been misconceived.
But how did we get embroiled in the infallibility of the court? All I asked was in what way was indecency supposed to be involved? This is a reasonable question, considering that the couple's intention was concealment not exhibition.
The article said a cleaner heard noises and reported this to the security guard. The cleaner didn't see.
To be discovered in such an act by a member of the public by accident would be indecent behaviour. To be discovered by the police, or anyone in authority who went specifically to unearth any unlawful action, is not the same.
The Act on oral sex has not been repealed and I presume there is a statute against sex in a public place. Why use indecent behaviour when we have two other laws for conviction?