SINGAPORE — The trial of a British expatriate who is accused of failing to wear a mask in public even after he was charged began on Wednesday (18 August) after he was assessed by the Institute of Mental Health to have no mental disorder.
Benjamin Glynn, 40, who appeared in person masked and in a dark blue polo T-shirt in the dock, represented himself for the second day of his hearing - after he was sent for further psychiatric assessment on the first day of his hearing earlier this month. The prosecution produced three witnesses – the investigation officer (IO) of the case and two police officer in plainclothes who were involved in Glynn's arrest at his condominium between 8 and 9 May.
The plainclothes officer, who was at the condominium along Holland Road, testified that Glynn had resisted arrest by adopting a boxing stance before telling the officers at the scene he could "f**cking drop them", and leading them on a chase around the compound.
Glynn faces four charges: not wearing a mask while in an MRT train on 7 May, causing public nuisance on 7 May, threatening police officers who went to his residence near to midnight on 8 May, and failing to wear a mask within and in the vicinity of the State Courts on 2 July.
On Wednesday, District Judge Eddy Tham noted that Glynn was fit to plead as there had been no disorder found in his IMH report. Among the attendees in court were at least eight security officers.
Asked if Glynn wanted to plead guilty, Glynn said he did not understand the charges before him and his presence there was a "farce". He said the charges had no "lawful jurisdiction" over him and that there was no "contract", which made him obliged to wear a mask.
"If you offer me compensation, I will consider accepting (the) charges, otherwise we have no contract," he added.
Proceedings disrupted by audience member
Partway through the hearing, a loud bang caused by a phone dropping on the floor was heard. A woman who was seated in the audience gallery then interrupted the proceedings.
The woman was singled out by the judge for not wearing a mask and a security guard approached her to remind her to wear her mask. She shouted in court and was escorted out by police officers.
IO Senior Staff Sergeant Amirudin Nordin testified that he had obtained nine video clips of Glynn, which were played in court. Eight of these were CCTV footage of Glynn around and within the State Courts on 2 July. He was seen not wearing his mask properly in all the clips.
The remaining video clip was the viral Facebook post on 8 May, when Glynn was filmed without his mask on an MRT train. He is heard saying in the video "“I will never wear a mask" and “I am very religious and I love human beings, and I hate seeing old persons and grown men with the mask on."
A police report was later lodged by an informant who saw the Facebook post.
Accused tried to ask investigation about the law
During his cross-examination of IO Amirudin, Glynn attempted to ask him about maritime law and regulations but his questions were turned down by DJ Tham, who told Glynn to leave issues of the law to submissions.
Glynn then asked if he had breached the law, to which IO Amirudin said, "Yes, it was currently law during this pandemic, not covering your nose and mouth is breach under Regulation 3A(1) of the COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) (Control Order) Regulations 2020."
Glynn then asked, "Did you consider when you came to my hotel room on 19 July with five colleagues and forced entry into the hotel room and dragged me out of hotel room and put me in prison for 18 days, would you consider that an unlawful arrest?"
Deputy Public Prosecutor Timotheus Koh objected to the question as it was not relevant to Glynn's charges.
Glynn later asked the IO, "Do you recognise that I am a living man?" After the DPP objected to the question, Glynn added, "Charges are regulations and regulations do not apply to a living person."
DJ Tham said in response, "The court takes notice that you are a living person, it is obvious to everybody in this court, so there is no need to ask the IO."
Glynn's last question to the IO was whether his offences was arrestable, to which the IO replied that they were.
— Yahoo Singapore (@YahooSG) August 18, 2021
Led officers on a chase around his condo
The second prosecution witness, police officer Chee Xiu Quan, said he was informed about the case on 8 May and instructed to arrest Glynn for the offence of public nuisance.
He visited Glynn's condominium with a fellow plainclothes officer Alvin Quek at around 11pm and spoke to Glynn at his unit before Glynn and the two officers headed to a porch area downstairs of the block to speak. Glynn informed the officers that it was his daughter's birthday and the family had a birthday party the next morning.
"We spoke to him and asked him if he was the man in the video. He acknowledged... he told me he was very concerned and very religious and believed in one true elohim, and wanted to help the old man (in the MRT train) because the old man was unable to breathe. So as we were speaking to him he appeared to be slightly flustered. He kept telling me COVID-19 was all a hoax. We tried to tell him...this was our job...he became more flustered," Chee told the court.
After Glynn refused to listen to the officer's instructions to wait for uniformed officers to show up, Chee decided to initiate arrest. As Chee took Glynn by his left hand, Glynn "immediately pulled his left hand away and spun around" and refused to be handcuffed.
"He adopted a boxing stance and told me he would 'f**king drop us both', so in light of that…we effected arrest. He was actively resisting, so I decided to draw my extendable baton in readiness. So I told him to lie on the ground and cooperate. However, he took a step and lunged towards both me and (my fellow officer)."
In light of the potential danger, the officer struck Glynn in the right thigh, and Glynn fled towards the guardhouse with the officers giving chase.
The security guard moved to block Glynn, so Glynn tried to flee to his condominium. When he stumbled, Chee took the opportunity to push him to the ground. As Glynn tried to stand, the officer tripped him. Glynn was eventually detained and brought back to the Police Cantonment Complex.
During his cross examination of Chee, Glynn asked for body worn camera footage, but Chee replied that plainclothes officers were not required to have body worn cameras.
Glynn claimed that when the officers visited his unit, he had presented his employment pass, credit card and business card to Chee, and asked to speak with the police another day.
"(I said) look it's midnight, we are having a party in the morning, you know where I live, where I am... I can come to the station anytime. I tried to diffuse whole situation...When you tried to kidnap me, in my opinion, to the police station because I did not consent to being questioned and taken away...we went from having friendly chat to me panicking and me running away."
The trial resumes on Wednesday.
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