Austin Cowburn, British Tourist, Faces Caning for Singapore Groping
Singaporean officials may cane Austin Cowburn, a 34-year-old British tourist, for grabbing a woman's butt at a nightclub earlier this year.
Cowburn was charged on Friday with "outraging the modesty" of a 30-year-old woman, according to the Straits Times. The paper also reports that Cowburn's passport was seized by authorities and that he is currently residing in a local hostel, waiting for his hearing on Wednesday.
The maximum sentence for the crime is two years in prison coupled with a fine and a lashing across the bare butt with a rattan cane. The penalties can (and likely will) be changed if the judge feels like avoiding an international incident.
The groping occurred at the luxurious China One nightclub where Cowburn, a recruitment specialist currently working in Qatar, proved to not be so great at his job after all.
Singapore has caned foreigners before, but the government seems loathe to make a habit of it because it can create some diplomatic boondoggles. In the 1990s Bill Clinton admonished the country after a young American was sentenced to 12 strokes for vandalism.
A notoriously rule-bound country, Singapore has the tendency to treat its citizens like unruly school kids. To wit, anyone convicted of littering three time is forced to clean the streets while wearing a bib saying: "I am a litterer."
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