Austin Cowburn, British Tourist, Faces Caning for Singapore Groping

Posted Aug 1st 2011 09:15 AMUpdated Aug 1st 2011 11:10 AM

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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."

Related:
An Overview of Singapore's History and Culture

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Sophia

I think Singapore works fine. You can't visit a country and not respect its infrastructure/laws. I personally think it's a little odd to cane someone for a crime but I guess if you're going to behave like a child you'd just as well be treated like one.

August 08 2011 at 7:01 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
J

as an expat working and living in singapore, ive personally seen a drunk person groping an unwilling female at a large party. actually at the time, i thought i was a joke given the magnitude of it as i knew that they we acquaintances.

i found out later that this person (a drunk male expat) had groped several women. i found this out when i was leaving this party and a scuffle has just ended with one of the husbands (a local) punched the drunk for not leaving his wife along (while grabbing her constantly).

the cops came, separated the crowd, and collected versions of the story. personally i thought that the expat should have been kicked out of the country at the least.... in the end, the female did not press charges, they guy got bailed out of jail (by his wife), and he is not back at work in singapore.

ironically, the woman (a malaysian) emigrated to australia.

the cops were calm, polite, but clearly were taking every chance to not have this be an arrest.... so much so, that i actually thought that they were overly favoring the expat (who had multiple witnesses against him).

so if this guy Cowburn is getting caned, either he is being scapegoated, or really dug himself a hole during arrest.

August 01 2011 at 7:24 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to J's comment
mrpolo361

I don't see much 'modesty' from any women who frequent these places. Modesty is generally in short supply when I frequently see women walking around in skimpy clothes with everything freely on display. I'm not saying that this is an excuse for men to freely molest them, but if they were all so 'modest' perhaps they would dress, and 'behave', in a more 'modest' way. Only last year, police arrested a mad old granny in Singapore who went around caning girls bare legs for wearing shorts she felt were too revealing. In the Sudan they publicly flog women for wearing trousers, and in Iran they also strictly police women’s attire, arresting and flogging those women who commit ‘hijab’ (dress) infractions. Perhaps if women all wore a Burka, this sort of thing wouldn’t happen?

September 08 2011 at 9:49 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to mrpolo361's comment
mrpolo361

How can you 'outrage' somenoes 'modesty' if they haven't got any in the first place?

September 08 2011 at 9:50 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down
vickie lynn

I agree with you Linda! I feel like our country would improve greatly if we totally revamped our legal system. We have the largest penal system in the world, by far. We have the largest amount of serial killers, murders, rapist, etc....and the largest amount of repeat offenders. Obviously something is NOT working. I did a thesis in college on some of this and was allowed to interview convicts at the state prison. Out of the 50 interviewed, 39 had intentionally commited crimes in order to go back to prison!!!! 3 square and good meals a day, tv in their cell, street clothes, playing cards, playing pool, watching movies....they said it was just too hard on the outside having to work and pay rent and bills!!!! So obviously in many cases, our prisons are not deterrants. Perhaps if we went back to prison garb, no tvs in cells, etc.....I mean, shouldn't convicted criminals LOSE some of their rights??? At that time, even people on death row were allowed to get college degrees! Come on!!! I had to pay for my college and for my children's college!! Perhaps we shouldve just robbed the 7/11???? I do believe that every inmate should be made to get a high school diploma. Then they are on even playing field. But not college degrees....paid for by people who DONT commit crimes and end up in jail!! I mean gee, instead of people joining the military after high school for college benefits, perhaps they should start getting incarcerated for 2 to 4 years instead...then they can lay in their street clothes watching tv in their cells, having their meals prepared for them 3 times a day, and after playing cards and shooting pool and watching movies, then they can study their college courses. It sounds ridiculous doesn't it? But, it is, in fact, a reality. Perhaps we should go back to chain gangs......save billions on labor across the country....lose the luxeries inside the walls....get tougher on crime...yes, tough enough that incarceration once again becomes a deterrant to crimes. All of those many countries who have such tough laws - cutting off fingers or a hand for stealing, etc.....one thing you can say about all of those countries is that they have extremely low crime rates!! No where but America could a convicted murderer or serial killer get to sit on death row, alive, for 15-20 years AFTER receiving a death sentence!!! Where is the justice and closure for the families victimized?? Some of them die of old age before the killer of their loved one is executed! Our appeal process is terrible! Now that we have DNA, I say all cases 100% proven by DNA and/or by the criminal's own confessions, should have no appeal process or it should be limited, very limited. Perhaps have one execution date each year, give each person 2 years maximum for appeal process, and televise executions so that want to be ciminals and gangsters out there can see the reality of the end of the road for their possible criminal intents and behavior!

August 01 2011 at 7:23 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
barrynaja

Bob you should stay here with your close minded personality , dont leave the US because you are dumb to tolarate other culture ,

August 01 2011 at 6:41 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
klasakt

What is wrong with the lttering punishment? Maybe if people were afraid of the consequences of their bad behavior in this country we would have less crime. The more horrendous the crime the more severe the punishment ... including death.

August 01 2011 at 6:32 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Joebudgie

People have to learn that they are subject to the laws and customes of whatever country they are living in or visiting.. Austin Cowburn should suffer the perscribed penalty for his actions and the world will know Singapore won'tt stand for tourists thinking they are better than the citizens that work, live and support their city.. I think caning and two years in jail might let the world know that Singapore is serious about law breakers. The United Kingdom Officials and U.S. Officials should stay out of it and keep their mouths shut for once.

August 01 2011 at 5:25 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Joebudgie's comment
Sarah S.

That should also apply the other way as well. The woman should be subject to exactly the same kind of physical lashing if the situation were reversed and she had groped Austin.

August 21 2012 at 8:18 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Bob

This is why I don't leave the United States! - but then again I don't commit crimes. Why not just cut off his hand to? Theft would be very rare.; this is a 3rd world country with barbaric laws. I'm not excusing the conduct and don't know if there were any mitigating circumstances, lot's of things happen in Night Clubs, Alcohol is being served and who knows what else in this place. They also have a law as well, if you don't flush the toliet, yes, both types, you can receive caning. Caning is a brutal form of punishment that leaves scars and can cause serious damage. I don't think sitting in a Sinapore jail is a very nice experience if you live through it.
Sure, many cases in the U.S. do not receive the punishment for the crime commited; that is because of the kiss ass Judge who doesn't do their job, not the law. I know Judges, on the other hand, who lock up anybody for just about anything. Sitting in a U.S. Jail or prison is no cake walk; give it a try if you don't believe that. Someone trys to cane me they will have a suprise they won't want; no need to elaborate. Screw Sinapore and the horse they rode in on. Sorry. There are other place's to go on vacation!

August 01 2011 at 5:17 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Bob's comment
Marianne

ummmm...Bob....Singapore is NOT a "third world country"! It ranks somewhere around seventeenth wealthiest country in terms of GDP per capita. World Bank data shows it in twelveth place,only five slots behind USA......

August 06 2011 at 12:04 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Marianne's comment
mrpolo361

Singapore may be a wealthy country, but in almost every other respect it is still very much a 'third world nation'. Wealth is not, by any means, the sole criteria for judging if a nation is third world or not. Look to their record on human rights, democracy, freedom of speech and right to free assembly. Look a little beneath the surface and you will often find that seemingly democratic regimes are often no more than corrupt tin-pot nepotistic dictatorships that rule by fear and oppression. Take a look at You Tube on what has ''actually" taken place in Singaporean elections over the years and how it continues to persecute anyone who dares to criticize them.

September 01 2011 at 6:27 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down
Linda

I'm with those who are ok with the punishment. As for the author - any pig who litters should be made to clean the streets, on the FIRST offense. Why give someone 3 chances at something so base as not throwing their garbage out in to everyone's world?

August 01 2011 at 5:15 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
GH

I think we should cane Obama, Pelosi and Reid - let's face it, there's three unruly children!

August 01 2011 at 5:07 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to GH's comment
Let's go Riding

Then Bush, Cheney , Rove and well ALL the repubes from the Dub'ya era should be jailed for life!

August 01 2011 at 5:17 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
price21523

When in Rome . . .

August 01 2011 at 5:00 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply

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