5 notable court cases in Singapore linked to circuit breaker

·Senior Reporter
·7-min read
People seen queueing outside a McDonald's outlet at Chinatown Point on 12 May 2020. (PHOTO: Dhany Osman / Yahoo News Singapore)
People seen queueing outside a McDonald's outlet at Chinatown Point on 12 May 2020. (PHOTO: Dhany Osman / Yahoo News Singapore)

SINGAPORE — As Singapore entered an unprecedented partial lockdown period last year in a bid to curb the spread of COVID-19, it introduced a slew of related rules and penalties against people who flout them. 

From 7 April to 1 June last year during the circuit breaker, people were not allowed to leave their residence for non-essential purposes, and forbidden from receiving any visitors. Starting from 12 April, those visiting supermarkets, convenience stores, pharmacies and shopping malls were required to wear masks, or be denied entry.

Two days later, the multi-ministry task force made it mandatory for everyone stepping outside of their residence to wear a mask, or risk being fined $300 for the first offence, and $1,000 for a repeat offence. Recalcitrant offenders also faced prosecution in court. 

Only those who engage in strenuous exercise, such as jogging or cycling, were allowed to remove their mask during their activity. 

Food and beverage outlets were only allowed to cater to takeaway or delivery orders, with dining-in prohibited during the period. Social gatherings of any size, in homes or public spaces, were also disallowed.

Over 1,800 fines were issued to those who did not wear masks from April last year to end-January this year, said the Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment in response to media queries. Separately, as of end-December, there were 296 cases involving at least one charge convicted under the COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) Act, according to the State Courts.

Here are five of the most high-profile offenders who made the headlines for violations under the Act during the circuit breaker:

1. "Sovereign" woman who refused to wear a mask

Incident of woman who refused to wear face mask at Shunfu Market. (SCREENSHOT: YouTube)
Incident of woman who refused to wear face mask at Shunfu Market. (SCREENSHOT: YouTube)

The Singaporean woman who called herself a "sovereign" was charged in court on 5 May after repeated refusals to wear a mask in a market.

A video of Paramjeet Kaur became viral after she was seen in it claiming that she had "nothing to do with the police" and that "they have no say". 

She was charged with one count each of eating outside her residence and being a public nuisance, as well as two counts of failing to wear a mask over her nose and mouth at all times while in public on separate occasions.

She allegedly failed to wear a mask over her nose and mouth at a food stall located at Upper Thomson Road on 30 April, and again on 3 May when she was at Shunfu Mart & Hawker Centre. She then allegedly created a ruckus by shouting loudly on the same occasion, causing annoyance to the public at the market.

In her court mention, the woman said she extended her "sovereign immunity" to her lawyer to represent her on her charges. 

She is slated to plead guilty on 23 April. 

2. Man without mask who abused minimart worker

Mohamed Ali Ramly was charged for not wearing a face mask, as well as hurling racist and abusive words to an individual. (PHOTO: Dhany Osman / Yahoo News Singapore)
Mohamed Ali Ramly was charged for not wearing a face mask, as well as hurling racist and abusive words to an individual. (PHOTO: Dhany Osman / Yahoo News Singapore)

Mohamed Ali Ramly was filmed in a viral video verbally abusing a minimart worker who had turned him away for not wearing a mask. 

Ali, a 53-year-old Singaporean, left his house on 17 April to buy soymilk for his wife, who had been in pain then. He had been turned away by three minimarts for not wearing a mask before ending up at Li Li Cheng Minimart, where he abused a cashier who refused to serve him.

He hurled vulgarities at the woman before saying, “Eh you Chinese ah. F**king hell man. All the virus come from you guys la. F**k you Chinese la you."

Ali was fined $4,000 on 9 December last year for using abusive words, wounding the woman's racial feelings, and failing to wear a mask over his nose. 

3. Massage outlet owner who provided sexual services

One massage outlet owner continued operating during the circuit breaker period even though non-essential businesses were ordered to close at the time. 

Jin Yin was fined $22,000 on 10 June last year after she provided sexual services to a male customer three days after the partial lockdown came into effect.

The 55-year-old Singaporean had assured the male customer that her business was still open as per normal and that she was working behind closed doors, to assuage his fear of being caught by the police. The customer paid $150 for a two-hour package for massage and masturbation services.

He was caught in the outlet when police officers, acting on complaints, arrived before his package was completed. 

4. Woman who sneezed on security guard who turned her away 

A Taiwanese woman who sneezed at a security guard who refused her entry into ION Orchard for not wearing a mask was jailed for 11 weeks on 10 September last year. 

Sun Szu-Yen, 46, had tried to enter the mall with her son on 12 April last year, the day that all individuals in public places were required to wear masks as part of measures to combat the spread of COVID-19. 

After Sun, who is on a long-term pass, recorded her particulars and contact details on a form and had her temperature taken, she was reminded to wear a mask by security guard Devika Rani Muthu Krishnan before entering the mall. However, Sun simply used her scarf to wrap her mouth. When she was refused entry, Sun indicated she wanted to use another scarf as a mask.

When she was still denied entry, Sun deliberately sneezed in Devika’s direction and said “You get it? You get it already!” She then took out her passport from her bag and said, “I am China, I am Taiwan.”

Devika asked Sun to leave, and the latter took the form in a bid to cancel her particulars. When Devika tried to stop her, Sun told her to “shut up” and “do your work”. Sun and her son then left. The exchange was captured on CCTV.

Separately, Sun was also sentenced for throwing a model globe, a green plastic chair, a vacuum cleaner, a glass bottle, a few pencils and a white plastic dustbin down from the window of her condominium unit on 4 June 2019. 

Sun had earlier pleaded guilty to the charges but qualified the plea by stating that she had sneezed due to bad odour. Her plea was set aside then, and she pleaded guilty again a month later. 

5. Robertson Quay gathering

Clockwise from top left: Neil Gordon Buchan, Joseph William Poynter, James Titus Beatt, Bao Nguyen Brown, Jeffrey George Brown, Michael Czerny and Perry Scott Blair. (PHOTOS: Dhany Osman / Yahoo News Singapore)
Clockwise from top left: Neil Gordon Buchan, Joseph William Poynter, James Titus Beatt, Bao Nguyen Brown, Jeffrey George Brown, Michael Czerny and Perry Scott Blair. (PHOTOS: Dhany Osman / Yahoo News Singapore)

Nine individuals were fined over safe distancing breaches at Robertson Quay on 16 May, while Singapore was in the midst of the circuit breaker. 

They were charged after photos of crowds gathering outside several popular bars and restaurants went viral on social media, sparking investigations by the authorities.

Four of the nine – Neil Gordon Buchan, 30; James Titus Beatt, 33; Joseph William Poynter, 35; and Perry Scott Blair, 38 – were each fined $9,000. Another four – Michael Czerny, 45; Jeffrey George Brown, 52; Bao Nguyen Brown, 40; and Alfred Jon Veloso Waring, 34 – were each fined $8,000. Daniel Olalekan Olasunkanmi Olagunju, was fined $8,500.

Eight of them, who were work pass holders, also had their work passes revoked by the Ministry of Manpower and were permanently banned from working in Singapore. The last individual, Czerny, is a Singapore permanent resident. 

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