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Judicial CP - July 2006

Corpun file 17974

Straits Times, Singapore, 7 July 2006

Footballer jailed for having drug and 2 bullets

By Teh Joo Lin

THE younger brother of national soccer striker Noh Alam Shah was yesterday sentenced to jail, his footballing dreams in tatters.

Muhammad Noor Ashiq Kamarezaman, 24, got a five-year jail term and six strokes of the cane for possessing 58.28g of a cannabis mixture meant for trafficking, and another year for keeping two 5.56mm calibre bullets.

The two sentences will run consecutively.

In April, he was caught in a Grange Road carpark with three blocks of vegetable matter, later found to be a cannabis mixture.
He was planning to sell the drug at $150 per block.

He led narcotics officers to his Ang Mo Kio flat and it was during their search of the flat that they found a black pouch containing the two bullets on the top shelf of a wardrobe.

He admitted the pouch was his, and the bullets were later found to be live rounds.

The bullets were not of a local make, and were the type used in rifles.

The M-16 rifles used by the Singapore Armed Forces, for example, use ammunition of this calibre.

A urine test later revealed that he had consumed a cannabis product.

He was jailed for 10 months for that, but this sentence is to run concurrently with the other two.

Two other drug-related charges were taken into consideration.

In mitigation, his lawyer R. Gupta described how his client - who plays for the Eunos Crescent Football Club - had found the ammunition almost 10 years ago, while playing soccer.
Then 15 and kicking a ball around in the void deck of his block, he found the pouch in a dustbin that was being used as a goal post.

Unaware of the consequences, he made a locket out of the bullets and kept them among his personal items.

After he had entered national service, he became 'mindful' about disposing the bullets, lest students from the two schools near his family's home found them.

But he did not spare much thought for them because he was suffering from depression at the time.

His mitigation plea explained that depression - for which he was receiving treatment - was also the reason he turned to drugs for relief from stress and anxiety.

The statement added: 'He has the potential to turn over a new leaf with his brother's guidance and supervision.
'He wants to concentrate on his football career.'

District judge Wong Keen Onn said he had taken into account the mitigation plea, but added that Noor Ashiq - as someone who had gone through national service - would have known that the bullets were dangerous.

Unauthorised possession of explosives attracts a jail term of up to three years or a maximum fine of $5,000.
His family declined to be interviewed.

Copyright © 2006 Singapore Press Holdings. All rights reserved.

Corpun file 17975

Straits Times, Singapore, 11 July 2006

Worker pursued maid and molested her twice

By Elena Chong

JAILED: Aman, 37, will spend 18 months in jail and get eight strokes of the cane.

A BANGLADESHI construction worker was jailed yesterday for molesting an Indonesian maid twice in a fortnight after following her from the supermarket.

The 30-year-old was first molested on May 15 at about 8pm by Aman Ullah Mollah Khorshed Ali, 37, who had followed her from Cold Storage at Rail Mall along Upper Bukit Timah Road.

He approached her from her left and tried to pull her hand but she managed to avoid him and continued walking. He then sneaked up from behind and pulled her left hand, forcing her to turn around to face him.

He then kissed her on the cheek, said Deputy Public Prosecutor Crystal Ong.

The victim tried to stop him by raising her arms to cover her face. He then squeezed her breasts.

The victim struggled and tried to kick his feet before fleeing towards an overhead bridge along Upper Bukit Timah Road.

Two weeks later, on May 29, Aman again followed the victim as she was leaving the supermarket and tried to talk to her. She ignored him and walked up the overhead bridge to go home.

As she was about to climb down the bridge, Aman snatched her plastic bag and, planting it between his legs, sat down at the top of the steps.

The victim told him not to disturb her. Then she snatched back the bag and ran down the steps.
Aman caught up with her and pushed her against a wall.

He then molested her.

The victim pushed him away and tried to fend him off by hitting him with her plastic bag. He leaned forward and tried to kiss her again but she shielded her face with her hands.

But she fell down as they struggled - and Aman touched her private parts. She pulled up her shorts and kneed him in his crotch, crying throughout the incident.

She then stood up and ran but Aman grabbed her from behind and tried to kiss her again.

She broke free and called out to a man for help, saying a Bangladeshi had disturbed her. Just then, a couple approached them and the first man asked Mr Sylvester Er, 40, to take the victim home.

Mr Er and his wife took the victim home. While making his way home, Mr Er saw Aman and pointed him out to his wife.

Aman immediately took to his heels, chased by Mr Er. He also called the police, who came and arrested Aman.

Yesterday, Aman was sentenced to 18 months' jail and eight strokes of the cane after pleading guilty to two counts of molestation. A third charge was taken into consideration.

Copyright © 2006 Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Co. Regn No. 198402868E

Corpun file 18049

Straits Times, Singapore, 28 July 2006

M-cyclist who bashed elderly driver gets jail and cane

By Elena Chong and Tanya Fong

Three strokes of the cane: Chee Tat Fatt

A MOTORCYCLIST was sentenced to five years of corrective training and three strokes of the cane yesterday for a fit of road rage in which he attacked an elderly lorry driver, who died of a heart attack shortly afterwards.

Chee Tat Fatt, a 47-year-old odd-job labourer, viciously assaulted 72-year-old Mr Hea Song Chye on Jan 15, punching him in the face and beating him on the head with his motorcycle helmet in a multi-storey carpark in Upper Cross Street.

Mr Hea and his wife had just returned from a street show and were only minutes away from home.

Chee became enraged after Mr Hea signalled wrongly, causing him to brake suddenly.

When he saw the lorry had stopped, Chee also stopped, got off his motorbike, then approached Mr Hea and began arguing with him. He punched the elderly man twice in the face through the open window, then opened the lorry door and dragged him out.

Mr Hea's wife, 64-year-old Madam Ng Nguan Cheng, who was with her husband in the lorry, tried to intervene, but she too was assaulted.

When Mr Hea fell to the ground, Chee took off his helmet and hit him twice on the head with it.

Mr Hea then fell unconscious and Chee rode away before the police arrived.
Madam Ng used her husband's cellphone to call her daughter-in-law for help. Mr Hea's son, who had arrived at the scene by then, noted Chee's registration number.

Mr Hea was taken to Singapore General Hospital, but died of a heart attack about 10 minutes after arrival.

Chee was originally charged with causing the death of Mr Hea. But he pleaded guilty last month after the charge was reduced to one of causing hurt.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Edwin San had asked the court to call for a corrective training report and caning, citing Chee's previous convictions, which include rioting and voluntarily causing hurt.

'Even if the deceased had signalled wrongly, as felt by the accused, this was simply no excuse for the accused to resort with impunity to such violent conduct,' he added.

Chee, who had a second charge of hurting Madam Ng taken into consideration, could have been sentenced to up to 15 years' corrective training.

Corrective training involves putting an offender through a 'regime of discipline' and teaching him certain work skills in order to turn him away from crime. Offenders get no early release.

Last night, widow Madam Ng broke down several times as she recalled what had happened.

Speaking in Mandarin, the cleaner said: 'It was so sudden and so violent. My husband was not an aggressive man and he was also very healthy.

'I know that he did not die from the injuries, but would he have had a heart attack if the assault had not happened?'

A dark shadow under her left eye - left over from the bruising she suffered - is a permanent reminder of the tragedy that cost her husband his life.

Said their daughter, Madam Mary Hea, 40: 'There are days my mother goes to the market and still buys my father's share of food.'

She added: 'Many times, she would cook, wait, and wonder why he had not come home yet. I'd visit and find her staring at the door. Then she would break down, realising that he was never coming back.'

Corpun file 18062

Sunday Star, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 30 July 2006

Insight Down South

Courts adopting a softer touch

By Seah Chiang Nee

Singapore's courts, renowned for their tough laws and strict sentencing, have been showing a softer, more humane, touch when dealing with young Singaporeans who break the law. 

It may be a little early to declare that a major transition of the judiciary is under way, and in fact, the republic will not relax its punishment of serious crime – including hanging and caning – any time soon.  

But on several instances in recent weeks, the courts have pulled back from sending youths to prison and instead gave them probation, a second chance or just a warning to avoid scarring their lives. 

This coincides with a programme called “Yellow Ribbons” to help released prisoners get jobs and return to a normal life. 

This is a departure from past norms when courts took a tough stance to ensure social stability.  

Recent exceptions included: 

* An 18-year-old girl shed tears of relief when she was given two years' probation, instead of a jail term, for multiple counts of counterfeiting currency and using fake S$50 bills.  

* A polytechnic student, whose mother was jailed for maid abuse, was given another chance by a district judge who placed her on probation for similar offences.  

* The High Court judge reduced a woman's 33-month jail term to probation for seven credit card fraud charges because of a sanguine probation report that she deserves another chance.  

* A Singaporean blogger has received a stern warning but escaped imprisonment for Sedition after posting cartoons mocking Jesus Christ on his online journal, instead of a possible three years' jail and/or S$5,000 fine. 

It is not known if they were mere coincidence or the result of a new government policy or the doings of Singapore's new Chief Justice Chan Sek Keong, who replaced tough-minded Yong Pung How in April this year. 

Yong, a long-time friend of Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew (they are said to share many views), was known to be very firm on the use of punishment as a deterrent to crime.  

Although some Singaporeans found Yong's sentencing too harsh, it nevertheless gained fans among Singaporean heartlanders when he cracked down hard on recalcitrant or violent criminals, rapists or drug offenders.  

To a large extent, it has helped create today's law-and-order environment that has drawn accolades from locals and occasionally even Westerners.  

Recently, New Zealander Peter Jenkins, who operated the Sensible Sentencing Trust website, wrote about his visit to Singapore's lower courts. 

“I witnessed a sentencing session where 20 offenders were dispatched in the space of less than an hour,” he said. 

The sentences were very much tougher than in New Zealand, he added, giving the following examples: 

1. Shoplifting goods to the value of S$45 – three months. 

2. Four assaults (30 months each) to be served consecutively not concurrently as would have been in New Zealand, making a total of 90 months or over seven-and-a-half years.  

3. A sexual assault – 10 years.  

4. A number of other offenders – shoplifting and other relatively minor charges plus some with drugs charges – were also sentenced for sentences ranging from six weeks or more (for a first offender).  

A repeat offender who stole numerous ATM cards and withdrew S$25,000 from them was jailed for eight years. Punishment for rape is not less than eight years, not more than 20, plus at least 12 strokes of the cane, he observed. 

A man with previous convictions for armed robbery and housebreaking who vandalised a welfare home in which he had been placed, causing S$4,000 damage, was sentenced to 42 months in jail – and eight strokes of the cane.  

“Another thing I could not help but notice about the court on arrival – there were no intimidating low-lives hanging around who are often found lounging around outside NZ courts. And there was no graffiti inside or outside the court,” Jenkins added. 

Singapore's new Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong is restructuring the society and the judiciary will eventually reflect the change, too. 

Taking a softer line against first-time juvenile offenders on less serious offences could be a start. The objective is to avoid a jail sentence that could mark their lives. 

Lee is working hard to win over young Singaporeans disenchanted with “excessive” control in preparation for the next general election due in 2011.  

In the recent election, many post-1965 Singaporeans turned against them, and more than half of youths recently told a survey they would emigrate if the chance arose. 

The new Chief Justice is paying special attention to young offenders. 

He has announced the setting up of a new Community Court that will deal with juvenile offenders (aged 16 to 18), including sex with an underage girl, family violence and neighbourhood disputes where offenders may escape prison. 

Traditionally, Singaporean judges are more likely to turn an unsympathetic ear to pleas for leniency. The general perception is that individuals are responsible for their own actions.  

Generally prisons are not regarded as reform centres but holding pens to keep criminals away from society. An increasing minority of Singaporeans, however, wants to see a softer handling of criminals and more emphasis on rehabilitation.  

In Singapore's case, bigger prisons do mean less crime.  

In Russia, some 599 people out of every 100,000 population are in jail, the world's highest ratio. Singapore, surprisingly, ranks fifth with 350 – higher than 17th place Malaysia with 141. 

Besides, the relapse rate here is high; some 76% of released prisoners go back to crime.  

Seah Chiang Nee is a veteran journalist and editor of the information website 

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