COVID-19: 10 fined for gathering in Sengkang flat during circuit breaker, 8 others involved

Wan Ting Koh
·Reporter
·5-min read
Singapore's State Courts seen on 21 April 2020. (PHOTO: Dhany Osman / Yahoo News Singapore)
Singapore's State Courts seen on 21 April 2020. (PHOTO: Dhany Osman / Yahoo News Singapore)

SINGAPORE — A group of 10 Singaporeans who gathered at a flat in Sengkang for dinner and drinks during the circuit breaker period were fined on Wednesday (5 August).

The 10 are: Felisa Chua Jia Xuan, 23; Poh Yang Ting, 21; Priscilia Tan Sze Hui, 32; Low Wei Hao, 25; Jackson Tan Chia Ho, 30; Nicman Lim Wei Fong, 25; Jasmin Tan Ee Lin, 30; Kho Zi Ting, 27; Peh Si Qin, 22; and Chee Min Hui, 27.

Jackson and Jasmin were fined $3,000, while the rest were each fined $2,500 after pleading guilty to contravening the COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) (Control Order) Regulations 2020, which prohibited anyone from meeting individuals inside and outside of their place of residence during the circuit breaker. Each had a count of leaving their place of residence without reasonable excuse taken into consideration for sentencing.

The 10 were in a social gathering which also involved seven other Singaporeans and one permanent resident (PR) who have yet to be dealt with.

These eight are: Cassie Ong Shi Hong, 32; Leong Chee Mun, 37; Moey Kai Yi, 18; Jasper Tan Zhi Hong, 25; Cavin Liow Jun Rong, 20; Chua Jie Kun, 29; Mandy Tan Yi Xing, 26; and Thant Thaw Kuang, 19 – the latter is a PR.

The cases involving Chua Jie Kun, Mandy Tan and Jasper Tan were adjourned as they are facing pending charges unrelated to their current charges.

Ong’s lawyer, Cory Wong, told the court that he had just been instructed and sought an adjournment to prepare mitigation documents.

Moey, Liow and Thant Thaw Kuang have a plea hearing fixed for 19 August, while Leong has a further mention on 13 August.

The flat where the social gathering took place was at Compassvale Crescent, and belonged to Leong and Ong, who were waiting to be married. The rest of the 16 did not stay at the flat.

From 7 April until 1 June, Singapore was in a partial lockdown with a set of heightened safe distancing measures in place to curb the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. One of these measures involved banning individuals from meeting others outside of their residence.

Ong and Leong hosted their friends at their flat on 8 May after they agreed to a plan to have dinner and drinks at their place.

Jasmin and Jackson visited the flat from about 6am that day, while the 14 other individuals began arriving from 9pm.

During the gathering, the 18 ate and drank alcohol together while playing games and watching TV.

Their merrymaking caught the attention of a neighbour, who called the police at about 2am on 9 May. The neighbour told the police that there “are still a lot of youngsters entering and leaving the unit”.

She added that she could hear the party laughing and that she had called the police numerous times as the gatherings had been proceeding almost every night.

A police officer was deployed to the unit at about 2.28am and noticed multiple pieces of footwear placed at its door. He heard people laughing and chatting within.

When he rang the doorbell, he heard hushing noises in the unit, but no one answered the door. He continued ringing the doorbell and waiting several minutes before Leong responded.

Leong, who said he was the owner of the unit, claimed that he had been sleeping and lied that he and his fiancee were the only ones present. He only came clean after the police officer said he had heard noises.

While Leong said there were only eight to 10 people in the flat, the police officer found there were a total of 18.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Lee Wei Liang sought a $2,500 fine for each of the accused except Jasmin and Jackson, for whom he sought $3,000 as the two had spent more than 20 hours at the flat.

The serious public health threat posed by the pandemic meant that deterrence ought to be the dominant sentencing principle in dealing with the perpetrators, said the prosecutor.

The DPP pointed out that the gathering was large, increasing the potential for the virus to spread and amplifying the risk to the rest of the community. Such gatherings were also hard to detect.

“Each guest spent between one and five hours and the gathering did not have an end time - it only stopped because the police arrived. It would likely have continued had the police not gone to the unit,” said DPP Lee.

The group had met for a “frivolous and completely unnecessary purpose” in blatant disregard of measures, said the DPP.

All of the 10 dealt with were unrepresented, with most telling the court that they had nothing to say in mitigation, except for a few who asked to pay their fines in instalments.

Pleading for leniency, Jasmin told District Judge Toh Yung Cheong through an interpreter that she was a single mother with two children to care for, while Jackson said he had three children, the youngest being only three years old.

For their breaches, each person could have been jailed up to six months or fined up to $10,000, or both.

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