Prosecutors ask for S'porean man who breached SHN to eat bak kut teh to be jailed 10 to 12 weeks

His defence lawyers pleaded for him to receive a S$10,000 fine instead.

Matthias Ang | Julia Yeo | April 16, 2020, 11:46 AM

Prosecutors have asked for a Singaporean man, Alan Tham, who breached his Stay-Home Notice (SHN) to eat bak kut teh to be sentenced to at least 10 weeks in prison.

The 34-year-old was present via video feed in court on Apr. 16, after indicating his intention to plead guilty to his charge under the Infectious Diseases Act on April 7.

Prosecution asked for 10-12 weeks' imprisonment

DPPs Kenneth Chin and Norman Yew asked for a sentence of 10 to 12 weeks in prison for Tham to be meted out, stating that the accused posed a "moderate risk" of infecting the public with the Covid-19 virus, and showed high culpability in breaching his SHN.

Tham had spent a total of more than four hours in public, and was present in at least six public places, travelling by public transport, the prosecutors said.

One of the locations included Kopitiam food court located at Changi Airport Terminal 3.

During this period, he did not take any precautions to reduce the risk of infection to others, such as wearing a face mask.

The SHN gave him clear reason to suspect that he was a contact of Covid-19, as it both specifically named the disease and described itself as a precautionary measure to prevent its spread through imported cases," the prosecution argued.

"There was no necessity or urgency for the accused to have visited the six public places and spent hours outside his place of residence."

However, the prosecution acknowledged that Tham had pleaded guilty to his charge at the earliest opportunity, and showed remorse for his actions.

The prosecutors concluded that a "clear deterrent message must be sent" to people who would put the health and safety of others at risk for the sake of their convenience or whims and fancies.

Defence asked for a fine of S$10,000

In a change from his previous appearance in court on Apr. 7, Tham was represented this time by lawyers Josephus Tan and Cory Wong from Invictus Law Corporation.

Previously, Tham had been unrepresented and indicated that he did not intend to solicit the services of a lawyer.

In the mitigation plea, Tan and Wong asked for Tham to be fined S$10,000 instead.

Speaking in court, the defence pointed out that Tham had "faithfully complied with the 14-day period" of his SHN by remaining at home.

With regard to Tham's arrival in Singapore, Tan stated that the SHN issued to Tham was "silent" as to how and when the person receiving the notice should reach his place of residence and to commence the SHN.

Tan also highlighted that Terminal 3 had not been cordoned off to people who picked up returnees, and that Tham had not been tested upon arrival.

Tan also noted that Tham had not gone out for entertainment purposes, and only went out for food and buying groceries to prepare for staying at home for his SHN period.

In addition, the public had been informed at that time of March 23, that they did not need to wear a mask unless they were feeling unwell, and Tham was not feeling unwell, Tan further stated.

As such, the defence argued that the harm caused by Tham was low, proposing a fine of S$10,000 instead of a jail term.

"There is no need to use a sledgehammer to kill a fly," Tan said in his mitigation plea for Tham, adding that he had already lost his job in CISCO Secure Logistics, and that the fine was by no means "a slap on the wrist".

With regard to this, the prosecution argued that the SHN was clear that Tham should not have not left his place of residence, even for food and groceries, which are considered non-essential activities.

The judge called for an adjournment until April 23, as requested by the prosecution for further investigation and to address the gap between the sentence proposed by the prosecution and defence.

Tham is currently out on bail at S$5,000.

For the breach of his SHN, Tham could be jailed for up to six months, fined a maximum S$10,000, or both.

What happened on the day of the offence?

Investigations revealed that Tham met his girlfriend at the airport upon arrival, then headed to the Kopitiam Food Court at T3 to have a meal at 3.40pm.

Both of them then booked a private-hire vehicle to Peninsula Plaza, arriving at 4.53pm, where Tham changed his money.

They then took another private-hire vehicle to Tham's house, arriving at 6.35pm, with Tham taking a shower afterwards.

The couple then headed out for dinner, as Tham had a craving for bak kut teh. They boarded bus 912 at 8.27pm and went to Kampung Admiralty located at Blk 676, Woodlands Drive 71.

While eating bak kut teh at Kampung Admiralty Foodfare Hawker Centre, Tham posted a photo of his meal on social media.

This resulted in him chastised by his friends, who stated that he should not be out in public as he was on a SHN.

Despite this, Tham did not immediately return home. He finished his meal, then headed to a nearby NTUC Fairprice to purchase groceries, before returning to his place at 10pm.

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Top image via Mothership Staff, Alan Tham/Facebook