Man who secretly filmed women with various spy cameras for 13 years jailed 27 months

(FILE PHOTO: Spy camera embedded in a pen/Yahoo News Singapore)

SINGAPORE — A man who took compromising videos of women for over 13 years with the use of spy cameras was jailed two years and three months on Thursday (4 June), with the presiding judge describing the case as the worst of its kind.

In passing the sentence against 35-year-old Charis Ong Junen, District Judge Adam Nakhoda said, “I have not come across a more egregious case (involving insulting the modesty of a woman) so far as its scope and scale. It bears repeating that the offending here stretched from 2003 to 2016 and involved in excess of 1,500 incidents”.

The judge observed that Ong’s offences, which involved filming women showering, changing or relieving themselves in various states of undress, was “highly premeditated” as shown by the use of spy cameras disguised as common items, and a curated filing system of the videos for repeated viewing.

The court had imposed a gag order in relation to the names of the victims. There is no gag order on Ong’s identity.

Ong had targetted victims in changing rooms at retail outlets, in his home toilet, when travelling on public transport and at a church toilet. He also filmed a bride and her bridesmaids during a wedding party in a hotel room.

DJ Nakhoda rejected the psychiatrist’s report that suggested it was hard for Ong to control his sexual impulse due to him being exposed to inappropriate sexual matters at a young age, and that this was “an accident waiting to happen”.

“I find it difficult to understand how the offending in this case can be described as an accident,” said the judge. The impulsiveness described by the psychiatrist was unsupported by facts and the rest of the psychiatric report, said the judge.

“In light of (Ong’s) pattern of offending I have given little weight to the medical reports,” added DJ Nakhoda, who also referred to the diagnosis of Ong’s voyeurism in an Institute of Mental Health report.

The judge agreed with the prosecution that Ong should not be treated as a first-time offender.

Over 13 years, Ong accumulated a total of 1,391 compromising videos of women dating back to January 2003.

Ong pleaded guilty to four out of 13 counts of insulting the modesty of women on 17 February, with the remaining charges taken into consideration for sentencing.

The prosecution, which had described Ong’s case as “unprecedented”, had sought three years’ jail for him.

Background to offences

Ong’s offences came to an end when he was caught red-handed by a female colleague he was filming.

On 13 April 2016, the 19-year-old woman received a dress as a birthday present from another colleague at the enrichment centre she had been volunteering at. She headed to a toilet to try on the dress. Ong, who was at the centre, followed her with the intention to film her while she was changing.

At about 2.30pm, he headed to the back of the female toilet and switched the video recording function of his phone on before raising his hand near a window. The victim spotted Ong’s mobile phone with the camera lens pointed at her. She attempted to snatch the phone away but he forcefully retracted his hand and managed to flee.

The woman saw and recognised Ong and informed her colleagues about the incident.

Ong went to get a drink and deleted the video footage. He returned to the centre, feigning ignorance of the incident and lying that he had left the office to buy a drink with two other male colleagues.

The woman lodged a police report the next day. During investigations on 20 April, Ong lied that he was not the perpetrator.

CCTV footage retrieved from the office, along with interviews of Ong’s purported alibis, revealed that he had lied about his whereabouts.

The investigation officer became suspicious when he saw that Ong’s Internet browsing history on his phone included searches on how to delete documents from the phone. The officer also noticed that the phone only had a handful of photographs, despite the multiple photo and video editing applications.

The police raided Ong’s residence on 20 April 2016 and seized six cameras, five spy watches, two spy pens, three spy camera sticks, one spy clock, 13 external hard drives, four internal hard drives and his Apple iPhone 6s. The spy devices had been purchased online or from Sim Lim Square.

A forensic examination of one of the hard drives revealed 821 obscene images and 692 compromising video films.

From January 2003 to the time he was arrested, Ong filmed unknown women at changing rooms in Cotton On clothing outlets, friends and family members who visited his home, female commuters and church attendees known to him.

Ong would save the video or image files which he deemed attractive to folders in his hard drives. Files of the same victim would be in a common folder named after their actual names or identities. Unknown women would be named after their physical looks or clothing. He also took screenshots of videos and saved them in sub-folders.

For each count of insulting a woman’s modesty, Ong could have been jailed up to a year and fined.

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