Man who took upskirt videos, filmed victims' faces, jailed 15 weeks

© 2014 Antonio Cano

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SINGAPORE — A former full-time national serviceman (NSF) who was previously on probation for taking upskirt videos of women resorted to the same offence again eight months after his stint ended.

Marcus Phua Xie Yi, 24, was jailed for 15 weeks on Thursday (6 May), after having taken numerous illicit videos from May to October 2018 at different locations in Singapore.

Phua typically trailed women wearing skirts or dresses on escalators of MRT stations or at staircases at overhead bridges, and also targeted students from polytechnics and universities. He would usually capture his victims' faces in his footage.

Phua's first brush with the law was in April 2016, when he was given 18 months' probation for the same offence.

District Judge Marvin Bay took into account Phua's previous offence when passing the latest sentence on Phua, who suffers from major depressive disorder and resorted to taking upskirt videos as a way to cope with his condition.

Phua pleaded guilty to 15 out of 43 charges of insulting the modesty of a woman, with the remaining charges taken into consideration for his sentencing.

At about 11.45am on 12 October 2018, Phua was on the way to his camp when he saw a woman wearing a skirt aboard the same bus. He alighted at a bus stop in front of the Singapore University of Social Sciences to follow the woman.

He turned on his camera to film under her skirt as she took the stairs leading up to an overhead bridge. A 26-year-old man, the victim's classmate, noticed Phua behaving suspiciously. He observed Phua angling the camera at the woman's face as Phua walked past her.

After taking a video of the 23-year-old victim, Phua returned to the bus stop. The witness and his classmates later noticed Phua trailing another woman up the stairs. He then confronted Phua and called the police. Phua managed to delete the videos he had taken that day.

While Phua's lawyer, Cory Wong, had originally sought for a mandatory treatment order (MTO) report to be called, the lawyer acknowledged that an Institute of Mental Health report said that Phua's condition had not impaired his judgement or impulse control.

Phua also still retained a high degree of responsibility over his actions, the report said. It added that Phua's offending actions were a "maladaptive coping mechanism", as Phua would use capitalise on the thrill in committing the offences to temporarily improve his mood.

Nevertheless, Wong pointed out that the report did refer to "social challenges" that Phua faced in his developmental years.

Phua's brother had passed away from medical complications at the age of 10, when Phua himself was only 12. Due to the brother's serious medical condition, their parents heaped attention on the younger boy.

Phua's father, who is separated from his mother, also died from cancer in 2016. "Major life events in his childhood and adolescence would make him vulnerable," said Wong, who also highlighted that Phua was 21 when he offended.

DJ Bay agreed with the prosecution that there was no basis to call for a MTO report.

"At some point, one just has to draw a line... and make a call on the need to protect the privacy of women and girls in public spaces," he said.

For insulting the modesty of a woman, Phua could have been jailed up to one year, fined, or both, on each charge.

Man who took upskirt videos, filmed victims' faces, jailed 15 weeks