|www.corpun.com : Archive : 1997 : SG Schools May 1997|
Corpun file 0839 at www.corpun.com
The Straits Times, Singapore, 17 May 1997
Teen was in trouble before
By Chang Ai-Lien
THE 16-year-old who was sentenced to the Singapore Boys' Home for two years for having a pack of cigarettes was considered unsuitable for probation because, apart from being caught for smoking before, he had shoplifted, played truant and was of a defiant nature.
Chief Justice Yong Pung How on Thursday dismissed the teenager's appeal against the Juvenile Court order.
Last August, the youth -- who left school during Secondary 3 -- pleaded guilty to having a packet of cigarettes at a Toa Payoh school carpark on April 26 last year. Magistrate David Chew Siong Tai had decided to send him to the home rather than put him on probation or fine him. Among his reasons:
This was the fourth time he had been caught for smoking-related offences which include smoking, buying or having cigarettes. He kept smoking a small pack of cigarettes every two days even after his court appearance.
He first picked up the habit in mid-1995.
He had not gone to a smoking cessation clinic in September 1995, although he was required to by his school.
In July that same year, he was caught shoplifting at Thomson Plaza and was released after police warned him.
He had had a record of truancy and open defiance in school since 1995. He was counselled along with his parents and caned in school, but in May last year, barely a month after the last offence, he assaulted a schoolmate and was caned again.
His parents had received complaints about him from the school but had been unable to control him.
Instead his mother covered up for him. The teen had run away from home twice since 1995 after being punished by his father. Since then, his mother had restrained his father from beating him, fearing that he would run away again.
The probation officer had also said, among other things, that he was not receptive to advice or guidance.
The inconsistent parenting styles also undermined supervision at home. Probation was not recommended.
Under the Children and Young Person's Act, various sentencing options are possible.
But in this case, the court felt he would not benefit from a fine as he had been fined on the last two occasions, and had not been deterred by a formal charge against him in court.
The court also agreed with the probation officer's assessment that in view of the weak parental supervision, his attitude and indifference towards her help, probation was unlikely to work.
It also was not confident that he would settle down to probation in an open hostel environment.
The magistrate wrote: "The court did not consider detention in a place of detention appropriate as it did not have the programmes to rehabilitate the accused.
"The only other available alternative was the approved school. I therefore ordered the accused to be sent to the Singapore Boys' Home for the minimum mandatory term of 24 months," he said.
Responding to Straits Times queries yesterday, the Community Development Ministry said that everyone admitted to the home, which does not allow smoking, has to go through a nine-module group session, which includes discussions on drug abuse, anger management and smoking.
Led by staff, the groups discuss smoking, its psychological and health effects, and how they can quit.
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