SINGAPORE — The judge presiding over a case involving a 24-year-old woman who assaulted and verbally abused police officers said the woman had no duty to cooperate with the officers when they conducted a check on her.
District Judge (DJ) Tan Jen Tse noted on Tuesday (18 June) that court documents did not set out the officers’ basis for stopping Evonne Keak Yan Ting on 4 July last year.
“The SOF (statement of facts) did not state whether she was doing anything wrong, there was no duty to cooperate,” said DJ Tan.
Keak had been found at Singapore Management University (SMU) looking flushed after drinking. She had been waiting for a Grab taxi when Staff Sergeant Mohamed Rosli Mohamed approached her.
When Sergeant Siti Nurdiana Khairuddin tried to prevent Keak from crossing the road, the latter shoved the officer in the chest. Keak later also hurled vulgarities at a third police officer after being arrested.
Keak, a merchandising specialist, was sentenced to 12 months’ probation after pleading guilty to one count each of using criminal force and abusive words on a public servant. She will also have to complete 80 hours of community service and her father was required to put up a $5,000 bond to ensure her good behaviour.
Probation is usually given to offenders aged below 21.
Accused waiting for Grab when officer saw her
Rosli, Siti and a third officer had been pursuing a couple riding an e-scooter in the Hill Street area at around 1am on 4 July last year. The trio lost sight of the couple once they reached SMU’s Li Ka Shing Library.
While his colleagues continued searching for the couple on foot, Rosli headed to retrieve their police car. It was on his way there that he encountered Keak, who was waiting for a Grab taxi.
As Keak appeared flushed, Rosli approached her but Keak ignored him and started to walk away. Rosli then called for backup and the officers tried to engage Keak, who continued away.
Rosli then asked Siti to hold onto Keak as the latter was trying to cross a road that still had traffic running along it. As Siti tried to stop Keak from crossing, Keak pushed her in the chest.
Keak was then placed under arrest and escorted to the police car. As Keak entered the police car, she verbally abused the third officer, stating “Your attitude is like s**t” and “I’m under arrest for what!”
No legal basis for accused to be checked: judge
Delivering the sentence, DJ Tan said that he was “acutely aware that there should be deterrent sentences for criminal offences against public servants” but noted that Keak’s case had “distinguishing facts”.
Keak had not committed any offence, as evident by the SOF, the DJ said. “While she was intoxicated, there was no sign of her behaving disorderly,” he added.
The SOF also did not set out the legal and factual basis for Rosli to make a check on Keak. “Therefore (Keak) is entitled to walk away from (Rosli),” he said.
“It is then most unfortunate that (Rosli) instructed his colleague to prevent (Keak) from crossing the road. Even though she looked as though she was going to cross the road and there was incoming traffic, there was no sense that she was in any imminent danger.”
“The police were not even trying to place her under arrest. The action of the push by (Keak) was precipitated by the officer holding her,” DJ Tan noted.
He also noted that Keak’s abusive language was directed at the officer’s acts of arresting her and less so at the officers personally. DJ Tan also noted that Keak and her father had cooperated with the investigating officer, who “opined that (the incident) was a one-off out-of-character episode”.
The prosecution sought a sentence of four weeks for Keak, reiterating that rehabilitation was not the primary consideration as she was already 23 years old at the time of the offence.
“She was of sufficient maturity and therefore fully able to understand the consequences of her actions,” said Deputy Public Prosecutor Lim Ying Min.
“To impose probation is a slippery slope. The question is where should the line be drawn? Do we give 22 year, 23 year, 24-year-olds probation?”
DJ Tan noted, however, that the case was not to be regarded as a precedent.
Keak’s pro bono lawyers, Josephus Tan and Cory Wong from Invictus Law, called the case a “very peculiar one” as Keak had not been under investigation from the start.
Keak had been “at liberty to cross the road however she pleased notwithstanding (the police officer’s) seemingly good intentions in holding her (to prevent her from crossing the road),” said Tan.
The officer’s act of holding Keak was the “physical trigger”, which escalated the already tense encounter with the officers, he added.
The prosecution sought to stay Keak’s probation sentence for 14 days, indicating to the court that it may be appealing against the sentence.
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