Rapist's sentence for digital penetration reduced

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Rape is a more severe sexual offence than another form of sexual penetration, a five-judge Court of Appeal ruled yesterday, in a case involving a former Sentosa beach patrol officer who faced one charge of each offence.

As a result, the court lowered Pram Nair's overall sentence by two strokes of the cane, having reduced his sentence for penetrative sexual assault using one or more fingers, an act known as digital penetration.

He had raped and sexually assaulted a drunk partygoer on Siloso Beach in 2012.

The apex court disagreed with the High Court judge who had, in October last year, imposed equal sentences for both charges as he was of the view that both were equally serious.

Nair's overall sentence now stands at 11 years and 19 days' jail, and 10 strokes of the cane.

Yesterday, delivering the apex court's decision, Judge of Appeal Chao Hick Tin said "at the highest level of abstraction, there is an intelligible difference" between the two offences.

The other four judges comprised Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon and Judges of Appeal Andrew Phang, Judith Prakash and Tay Yong Kwang.

First, penile penetration carries the risk of unwanted pregnancy and of transmitting sexual diseases, which would have far-reaching consequences for the victim, said the court.

Second, penile penetration is a more intimate act and represents a greater degree of sexual intrusion and exploitation by the offender as he derives more gratification from it.

However, the court agreed that its framework for sentencing rapists, issued in May, should be transposed to that for digital penetration because both offences share many aggravating factors.

Depending on the severity of the case, the sentencing range for digital penetration is a jail term of between seven and 20 years as well as between four and 18 strokes of the cane per charge.

The apex court upheld Pram's sentence for rape but reduced that for digital penetration to seven years, six months and 19 days' jail and four strokes of the cane. While he faces fewer strokes of the cane, the length of imprisonment is not affected as both terms run concurrently.