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Judicial CP - October 1998

Straits Times, Singapore, 3 October 1998

30 months and 6 strokes for extortion bid

TWO youths who were short of money decided to extort money from a "very rich and timid" Singaporean woman who was related to one of them.

Malaysian Yoon Ming Yee, 19, unemployed, was having supper with his accomplice, also 19, at a coffeeshop in Malacca on Sept 12 when the accomplice suggested extorting $3 million from his relative in Singapore.

The accomplice, whose case is pending, added that his relative, Miss Tan Eng Chye, 56, was very rich and timid, and would accede to the demand, a district court heard on Thursday. Inspector K. Rasiah, prosecuting, said the two planned to send an extortion letter to Miss Tan, threatening to kill her if she did not hand over $3 million.

Four days later, they drove to Singapore and cruised the East Coast area for some time before they found Miss Tan's house.

At 2 am on Sept 17, they went to Miss Tan's house and left the extortion letter outside her main door. It told her to leave the money at a certain spot in Planet Hollywood in Orchard Road.

When Miss Tan read the letter, she became frightened and reported it to the police. An ambush party went to Planet Hollywood at about 10 pm on Sept 17, and arrested Yoon and his accomplice about 1 hours later.

District Judge Lau Wing Yum sentenced Yoon to 30 months' jail and six strokes of the cane for putting the victim in fear of death in attempting to extort $3 million from her.

Yoon pleaded guilty. He said in mitigation he committed the offence out of greed and begged for a chance. He said he was willing to be a prosecution witness.

He could have been jailed for up to seven years and caned.

Copyright 1998 Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. All rights reserved.

Straits Times, Singapore, 6 October 1998

Court ups sentence of teen killer

He now gets 10 years' jail and 15 strokes for killing rival gang member. But court refuses to set blanket ruling for the same sort of criminals

By Tan Ooi Boon

THE Court of Appeal yesterday upped the sentence for a teenage gangland killer to 10 years and 15 strokes of the cane, but refused to set a blanket tough ruling for the same sort of criminals.

In August, the High Court sentenced the gangster, Allen Tan Kei Loon, 18, to seven years in jail and nine strokes of the cane.

He had stabbed a member of another gang to death in revenge for an earlier brawl which did not concern the victim. The killing occurred at the Dhoby Ghaut MRT station last October. The prosecution appealed against the sentence, asking for life imprisonment and 24 strokes -- the maximum under the law -- for such killers, arguing that they were no different from "hoodlums who loot and shoot innocent bystanders without caring a hoot".

The court, which comprised Justices M. Karthigesu, L.P. Thean and Lai Kew Chai, raised Tan's sentence, but said that it was "not desirable" to set a binding sentence for culpable homicide cases as there could be different reasons behind each killing.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Francis Tseng had urged the court to impose the maximum sentence for killings related to secret societies, in the interest of public order and safety.

He said this was because in gang clashes, it was common for innocent bystanders to be hurt or even killed as a result of mistaken identities.

The DPP also argued that the sentence for culpable homicide, or non-pre-meditated killings, should not be lower than that for the crime of rape, which is a maximum of 20 years' jail and caning.

He said: "A victim of rape can recover from the trauma and get on with life.

"But this privilege is completely denied to a victim of culpable homicide."

As a rebuttal, Tan's lawyer, Mr Raymond Lye, argued that there was no need to impose a blanket ruling for gang-related killings as the situation here was not like Macau "where the triads have run wild".

He said: "In Singapore, the so-called secret societies of today are no more than mere street gangs of teenagers and youths who want to give themselves a misconceived higher standing by calling themselves 'secret societies'."

In giving its ruling, the court said it would not set a benchmark sentence, but agreed with the DPP that Tan's initial sentence was too light.

Copyright 1998 Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. All rights reserved.

Straits Times, Singapore, 6 October 1998

Driver hid 6 illegals under bus floor

Under the amended Immigration Act, offenders will now face tougher penalties for some violations

By Elena Chong

A LORRY-DRIVER who transported six illegal immigrants into Singapore in the secret compartment of a bus was sentenced to four years' jail and 18 strokes of the cane yesterday.

Paramasivam Patti Thevar, 29, a Malaysian, admitted to six charges of conveying four Chinese and two Indian nationals to the Woodlands checkpoint on Sept 26. He was given the minimum two years' jail and three strokes on each of the six charges. Two of the jail terms are consecutive.

A subordinates' court heard that immigration officers checking Paramasivam's bus that evening found the six illegal immigrants in a compartment under the carpeted floor of the bus.

Investigations showed that the four Chinese nationals had flown to Kuala Lumpur from Xiamen, China. They were taken to Johor where they spent a night before boarding Paramasivam's bus.

As the bus was nearing Singapore, they were told to enter the compartment and were joined by two Indian men. All six have been dealt with for illegal entry.

Paramasivam could have been sentenced to a maximum five years' jail and the minimum three strokes of the cane for each charge.

Meanwhile, Singapore Immigration and Registration yesterday issued a reminder that there are now tougher penalties for some immigration offences.

This is because the Immigration (Amendment) Act came into effect yesterday.

Those who try to enter Singapore illegally now face up to six months' jail and a mandatory minimum of three strokes of the cane, as against two years and a $4,000 fine with no caning.

The maximum for trying to leave illegally is six months' jail and a $2,000 fine, compared to three months' jail and a $2,000 fine.

These penalties are now the same as those for actual illegal entry and departure.

Those who help people to come in illegally face a mandatory minimum of three strokes on top of a six-month to two-year jail sentence.

The law now also puts the onus on a suspected illegal immigrant to prove that he was not trying to enter Singapore illegally.

Corpun file 4250

Straits Times, Singapore, 7 October 1998

Life in uniform

Watch this and stay off crime

A 15-minute video, which depicts life in jail, will be sent to over 140 schools to show students the shocking reality of prison life

By Chong Chee Kin

STUDENTS will get a realistic look at the horrors of life behind bars when a new video goes out to schools next week. The video, called Prison Me? No Way! is based on typical gang fights and looks at the life of a jailbird through the eyes of two youths -- one aged 21, and the other 16 -- who are put behind bars.

It starts with principal characters, 16-year-old Tan Wei Meng, and his friend, Low Poh Seng, 21, leaping into the thick of a fight which erupts at an HDB void deck after a staring incident.

Loh is arrested for hurting someone and Tan, for joining in the fight.

Tan is sentenced to 18 months in the Changi Reformative Training Centre.

Loh goes to Changi Prison and is ordered to be caned, too.

The 15-minute video, filmed inside the prison and the centre, cost $43,000 to make.

It was commissioned by the National Crime Prevention Council to put teenagers off crime.

Next week, it will be sent to more than 140 primary and secondary schools and junior colleges.

The council's executive director Veronica Chan said the video had its beginnings in a letter which Singapore's High Commissioner to Britain, Mr J.Y. Pillay, wrote to the Ministry of Home Affairs.

He had watched a video about prison life in England in April last year and suggested that a local adaptation be made.

The video was sent to the ministry and eventually landed in the hands of the council, which felt that it had a lot of potential, said Assistant Superintendent Chan.

So last November, the council approached Caldecott Productions International to produce a video based on prison life here.

It was completed in July.

Its "hard-hitting" footage will "shock and awaken the youths to the realities of prison life", said ASP Chan.

The video shows caning, the tough physical regime that prisoners undergo, cleaning dirty toilets as well as the persistent reminders of their loss of pride and freedom.

Tan, the teenage offender, for instance, loses his girlfriend, and does not get to his father's death-bed to say a final farewell.

The council hopes the video will reach more young people than those now targeted by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID).

ASP Chan said the prison visits organised by the CID are open only to certain youths who have disciplinary problems or are involved in gangs.

The video ends with Low still in prison.

Tan, meanwhile, is released from the centre, but is left to ponder his uncertain future.

This open ending was deliberate so that there would not be too much focus on the stigma of going to jail.

ASP Chan said: "It is more important for them to realise that the consequences of their actions will follow them wherever they go, and it is up to these young people to judge whether it is all worth it."

Copyright 1998 Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. All rights reserved.

Straits Times, Singapore, 7 October 1998

Teens feel unnerved after watching the video

WILLIE Quah, 15, says he has never been spooked by a horror movie. But the National Crime Prevention Council's new video left the Henderson Secondary student's stomach feeling queasy.

Twenty students from his Secondary 3 class previewed the video and all 20 said they were disturbed by the scenes of prison life.

Willie considered the caning scene the worst, and winced when he saw it. He said: "You can tell from the prisoner's expression and the way he clenched his fist how painful it was."

His classmate, Eileen Zheng, agreed. She said: "I could almost feel his pain."

The students, who had been giggling beforehand, fell silent the minute the video started.

The opening scene shows a gang fight in which a teenager is stabbed repeatedly by one youth. His younger partner-in-crime, the lookout, shouts at him to run because the police have come.

The next scene shows the two in prison.

Vamsikiran Somanchi, 15, said: "It just struck me how humiliating it can be for a prisoner.

"You lose your pride completely by having to strip in front of your warden, or having to clean a dirty toilet."

His classmate, Ng Junwei, 15, said at the end of the 15-minute video: "Even when you get out, it will be difficult to find a job.

"It's just not worth it committing a crime. It destroys your life."

The students' teacher, Miss Audra Liow, 26, who watched the video with them, said it was effective.

She said: "The students were understandably shocked by the caning scene, and the video will be a good deterrent for good kids.

"But other things such as counselling must be done."

Copyright 1998 Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. All rights reserved.

Straits Times, Singapore, 9 October 1998

CNB pulls in over 90 in Dragnet

MORE than 90 people were rounded up yesterday in islandwide drug raids conducted by the Central Narcotics Bureau.

During the operation, codenamed Operation Dragnet, a series of simultaneous raids were conducted at various places, including downtown, Housing Board flats and public parks.

Dragnet, which started early in the morning, continued late into the night. But by 5 pm, a total of 94 people were arrested. Forty-four tested positive for drug consumption.

Although the operation started in 1994, this was the first time media coverage was allowed.

Reporters and photographers saw how CNB officers used high points to watch over areas where addicts often appear.

They then swooped down on those they spotted, or when they saw a drug deal being struck. Suspected hideouts in HDB blocks were also raided after they were watched.

At a briefing yesterday, Mr Tan Seck Kang, the bureau's deputy director said: "The operation may be very labour intensive with more than 100 officers participating, but we will spare no effort in tracking down drug offenders.

"It is a systematic way to hunt down drug absconders who have relapsed and are likely to be pushing drugs to sustain their habits."

There were 11 similar operations in the first nine months of this year; 1,721 drug offenders were arrested, he said.

He added that since the amendment to the Misuse of Drug Act, which came into effect on July 20 this year, 162 hard-core addicts had been convicted under tougher laws.

They were jailed between five and seven years, and given up to six strokes of the cane; previously, they would have been sent again for drug rehabilitation or fined.

Straits Times, Singapore, 10 October 1998

Raping daughters: Court gets tough

By Tan Ooi Boon

THE High Court yesterday said it would get tough with men who raped their daughters, and sentenced one such culprit to 24 years' jail and 24 strokes of the cane.

This was among the most severe punishments meted out recently for rape involving a man and his daughter.

Since 1993, at least four others have been jailed 20 years for raping their daughters. All but one were given 24 strokes -- the maximum. Yesterday's case involved a 41-year-old man, who had been raping his daughter for five years since she was 11.

Judicial Commissioner Amarjeet Singh said: "I have to take a stern view in cases where a parent is involved in an incestuous relationship with the child."

The man had pleaded guilty to three rape charges. Six other rape, molest and unnatural sex charges were considered in sentencing.

The judge said the sheer number of charges showed that the man had been persistent in his "wild conduct in sexually defiling his daughter" from 1992 to 1996.

The man cannot be named so that his daughter's identity can be kept secret.

Deputy Public Prosecutor G. Kannan said that the rapes first happened some time in 1992 when the girl was in Primary 5. The man, an odd-job labourer, would order the girl to strip and then rape her while his wife was working the night shift.

This went on until June 1993 when his wife left home with their two sons and the daughter after a quarrel.

They returned in 1994. Shortly after that, the man was caught for taking drugs and was sent to a drug rehabilitation centre (DRC).

But as soon as he was released from the DRC in February 1996, he started raping his daughter again.

The DPP said the man warned her not to tell anyone, saying that she would be the one who would be shamed if she did so.

The crime was exposed by the police's Rape Investigation Squad this year, when the girl complained that she had been molested.

His mitigation was that his judgment was clouded by his drug addiction.

But the judge dismissed this as a "shabby excuse".

Straits Times, Singapore, 15 October 1998

Man who hid heroin in anus gets jail, cane

He obtained the drug while he was in the Subordinate Courts lock-up and tried to pass it to others in prison

A DRUG addict was at the Subordinate Courts to face a criminal charge when he managed to obtain some heroin in the courts' lock-up.

Azmi Hassan, 24, stuffed the drug up his anus and went back to prison, but he was found out before he could pass some of it on to two others there.

He was given a laxative three days later and out came a container with two sachets. It held a total of 0.02 gm of heroin.

He was sentenced to eight years' jail and five strokes of the cane on Tuesday for trafficking and possessing drugs.

A district court heard that he was taken to the Subordinate Courts on July 23 and was in the lock-up when he obtained the heroin.

The court was not told who passed him the drug.

Back at his Queenstown Remand Prison cell, the next day, he took out the drug he had got at the courts and divided some of it into two portions, which he wrapped in paper.

A day later, he placed the wrapped bundles in a magazine and passed it to someone walking past his cell. He asked the person to deliver the magazine to another cell.

But prison wardens who saw the two talking seized the magazine and found the concealed drugs.

Three days later, prison officers were tipped off that Azmi was hiding contraband, believed to be heroin, but they found nothing on him or in his cell.

He was then given a laxative.

He passed out a cylindrical container wrapped in plastic and tied with string. Two sachets of heroin were found in the container.

District Judge Seng Kwang Boon gave him five years' jail and the caning for trafficking in 0.01 g of heroin, and three years' jail for having another 0.01 g of heroin.

Both sentences will run consecutively.

Azmi has had previous drug convictions. He could have been given up to 20 years' jail and 15 strokes of the cane for drug trafficking.

The maximum penalty for having drugs is 10 years' jail and a $20,000 fine.

Straits Times, Singapore, 17 October 1998

Two jailed for bid to smuggle out foreigners

TEN foreigners who were in Singapore illegally tried to leave on the quiet on Tuesday night in specially-made hidden compartments in a Malaysian-registered bus.

They had either entered Singapore illegally or overstayed.

They squatted precariously on steel frames welded to the bottom of the bus but were found during an immigration check when they reached the Woodlands checkpoint.

A district court jailed bus driver Durairaj Karupiah, 31, and his assistant, Sivakumar Panchanathan, 28, on Thursday for 2 years each, for helping the foreigners to leave Singapore illegally.

Both men are Malaysians. Durairaj was recruited by a man in Johor Baru. He was promised RM100 (S$42.55) for each person he smuggled out and he asked Sivakumar, a painter, to help him.

The court heard that another man contacted Durairaj on Tuesday evening and told him to drive his company's bus into Singapore to pick up the foreigners.

Durairaj and Sivakumar drove to a mosque in Woodlands Road, where they picked up three Bangladeshi men.

They went on to the Woodlands MRT station, where they picked up the other seven -- six Myanmar men and a Thai woman.

They then drove to a deserted carpark in Yishun, where they directed the foreigners to hide.

District Judge Lau Wing Yum sentenced Durairaj and Sivakumar to 10 months' jail on each of 10 charges and ordered three sentences to run consecutively.

The 10 foreigners were each jailed for a month.

The men also got four strokes of the cane each, while the Thai woman was fined $2,000 in place of the caning.

If she cannot pay the fine, she will have to stay in jail for another month.

Straits Times, Singapore, 19 October 1998

Giving drugs to someone is considered 'trafficking'

CJ upholds a court ruling sentencing a man to six years' jail and five strokes for giving someone an Ecstasy pill

By Tan Ooi Boon

IT WAS only one pill -- and no money changed hands. But the law came down hard on a 22-year-old coffeeshop assistant who was caught giving an Ecstasy pill to a man in a discotheque.

Anthony Chua, who had a previous record for consuming and having drugs, was sentenced to six years in jail and five strokes of the cane by the district court for the offence.

His appeal to the High Court was dismissed recently.

In dismissing the case, Chief Justice Yong Pung How reiterated an earlier ruling which essentially states that giving drugs to someone for free, or handing it over to someone only for safekeeping, still amounts to trafficking.

The giver's motive is irrelevant, because in the Misuse of Drugs Act, the definition of the word "traffic" is very wide: it includes "to sell, give, administer, transport, send, deliver or distribute".

So, if a man was found to have given away more than 15 g of heroin, he would be sentenced to death even if no money was involved in the transaction.

Even if he had kept the drugs at a place where other addicts could take and consume them easily, he would still be deemed to have "given" the drugs to the addicts, and thus be guilty of trafficking.

Chua was caught by the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) during a raid at Sparks Discotheque on April 3 last year. The CNB said that Chua had sold 80 Erimin pills to a customer for $128.

He later also gave the man an Ecstasy pill although he was reluctant to accept it.

A charge of selling Erimin pills was withdrawn, but Chua was charged with trafficking in the Ecstasy pill.

His defence was one of denial: that the customer had a grudge against him and thus had set out to incriminate him.

But the Chief Justice rejected his story and said that he had "no problem" in concluding that Chua was guilty.

In giving the court's decision, CJ Yong said: "Once the court found that the accused 'gave' drugs to another person for whatever reason, be it for consumption or safekeeping, the accused would be liable for trafficking in that amount which had been given."

In view of Chua's previous record, he noted that his sentence was just, as it should have the effect of deterring him from committing similar or even more serious offences in future.

Said CJ Yong: "In addition, a strong message needs to be sent to the public that our courts take such drug offences very seriously, especially in light of the fact that the consumption and trafficking of Ecstasy and other designer drugs are on the rise among today's youth."

Motive irrelevant

THE Misuse of Drugs Act defines the word "traffic" very widely. It includes "to sell, give, administer, transport, send, deliver or distribute".

Even if the drugs were kept in a place where they could be found and consumed easily, the person is deemed to have "given" the drugs, and is thus guilty of trafficking.

Straits Times, Singapore, 22 October 1998

Teen gets jail for extorting money

A TEENAGER who was put on probation after he robbed a 31-year-old Chinese national went back to his victim 2 weeks later to extort $30,000 from him.

Huang Ziqiang, 16, a Singapore permanent resident who is from China, threatened to harm the man here and his family in China, if he did not pay up.

Yesterday, Huang found himself back before District Judge Louis D'Souza.

The same judge had allowed probation in the robbery case and ordered Huang to stay home between 9 pm and 6 am every day.

This time, the judge sentenced him to two years' jail -- the minimum for extortion -- and six strokes of the cane. Huang will also be brought back to court later on to be sentenced for his earlier robbery offences, since he had breached his probation by going out after 9 pm to meet the extortion victim.

The court heard yesterday that bricklayer Hong Ai Guo had told the police that Huang robbed him twice, on April 6 and 9 this year. Huang was arrested and put on probation from July 9.

But on July 27, Mr Hong received a call on his cellular phone from Huang, who said he had been charged with robbery because of the bricklayer's police report.

Huang, who is unemployed, said his father had put up $30,000 bail for him, and demanded that Mr Hong give him this sum. He called again and threatened Mr Hong later that day. Mr Hong made a police report that night.

When Huang called again on Aug 2, Mr Hong offered to pay him $300, which was accepted. They met the next night outside Raffles City, where police arrested Huang.

Mercy no more: Chances up

District Judge Louis D'Souza noted that Huang Ziqiang had broken his promise that he would not commit any more offences when he was placed on probation. Said the judge: "How many chances do I have to give you? No more."

Copyright 1998 Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. All rights reserved.

Straits Times, Singapore, 28 October 1998

Mercy for drug trafficker with HIV

He gets the lowest possible jail term of 22 years for three drug offences, as his illness is punishment enough, says a High Court judge

By Tan Ooi Boon

A HIGH Court judge quoted William Shakespeare in showing mercy to a drug trafficker who has the Aids virus by giving him the lowest possible jail sentence.

Lim Kim Hock, 39, could have been jailed for up to 40 years for his three latest drug offences as he has a bad record dating to 1980.

Judicial Commissioner Tay Yong Kwang sentenced him to a total jail term of 22 years, the minimum under the law.

Lim does not have illnesses associated with Aids, the late stage of infection by the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), and is being treated by a doctor from the Communicable Disease Centre.

In a judgment reported recently in the Law Academy's Digest, JC Tay said: "Since the accused is facing a potential death sentence of another sort by virtue of his medical condition, I think, in the words of Shakespeare, 'the quality of mercy is not strained' by reducing the punishment to the absolute minimum for each charge."

Earlier this year, the prosecution had also spared Lim from facing the gallows by reducing his original capital charge to a lesser trafficking charge.

He was found with 44.65 g of heroin, but was charged with trafficking in 14.99 g, just 0.01 g short of the weight which brings the compulsory death sentence.

The lesser charge carries a penalty of between 20 and 30 years in jail and 15 strokes of the cane.

He also faced two other charges for drug possession and consuming drugs. Because of his record, he faced jail terms of at least two and three years respectively for these charges, up to a maximum of 10 years each.

JC Tay said that Lim deserved no sympathy for being a purveyor of drugs, but deserved sympathy for his medical condition, regardless of whether it was self-inflicted.

He added: "Indeed, if it was not self-inflicted, he would deserve a greater measure of sympathy."

He then meted out the minimum sentences on all three of Lim's offences -- 20 years' jail and 15 strokes of the cane for the trafficking charge, two years' jail for having drugs and three years' jail for consuming drugs.

As Lim had three sets of jail sentences, the judge was bound to make at least two run consecutively.

So he ordered Lim to serve the first two sentences consecutively and the third concurrently for a total jail term of 22 years.

JC Tay also said that if Lim was certified unfit for caning, his caning sentence would be set aside or be substituted with a jail term of up to 12 months.

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