SINGAPORE — A man originally sentenced to three months’ jail for stealing a metal basin tap from the Woodlands Police Division Headquarters had his jail term reduced to 19 days after his appeal was allowed by the High Court on Friday (1 November).
The prosecution in Seah Kian Li’s case told the court that it was of the view that the sentence given to him in the State Courts was “a bit high”.
Pleaded guilty to vandalism
Seah, 50, was given the jail term after he pleaded guilty to one count of vandalism.
On 1 March, Seah went to the police division headquarters at Woodlands Street 12 to bail his brother out. He used the toilet at about 12am and noticed that the basin tap was loose.
When he checked the tap and realised that it was suitable for his home toilet basin, he unscrewed the tap from the sink using his hands and brought it back home.
The $171.20 tap was later found fixed in Seah’s home toilet when officers raided his home a month after the crime was discovered.
A cleaning supervisor had noticed the missing tap on 28 March and reported it to the police division headquarters’ facility manager, who in turn reported the matter to a divisional logistics officer. Closed circuit television footage outside the toilet caught the offence, as Seah had left the toilet door open while committing the crime.
Seah immediately admitted to the offence when asked by the police.
He did not have a lawyer when he pleaded guilty on 15 August, and had said in mitigation that he had to care for his younger brother, who was a psychiatric patient and unemployed.
Original jail term ‘manifestly excessive’
Pro bono lawyers Sanjiv Rajan, Christine Tee and Rebecca Chia acted for Seah on Friday, describing Seah’s original jail term – one month of which was given in lieu of caning – as “manifestly excessive”.
“Mr Seah’s culpability and the seriousness of his offence are at the lowest-end of the spectrum for the vandalism offences. This is in light of factors such as the following: only a single item was involved; the low-value of the tap; and the lack of any planning or premeditation,” Rajan told the court.
He added that the District Judge who sentenced Seah then had erred in imposing an additional jail term in lieu of caning as Seah’s case was not serious, and there was no need to compensate for a deterrent effect.
Rajan argued that the District Judge had also erred in treated Seah’s previous convictions as aggravating factors. Seah’s property-related past offences in 1996 and 2006 were also dated, said the lawyer, who sought sought a three-week jail term for Seah.
Internal review conducted
In response to the defence lawyer, Deputy Public Prosecutor Nicholas Khoo said that the prosecution had conducted an internal review and felt that the sentence was a bit high. He added that he was “grateful” that the defence lawyers had taken the case pro-bono.
“Having reviewed the matter, we are not opposing the appeal,” said DPP Khoo.
Rajan said in response, “This shows that the system works and I’m grateful for (DPP) Khoo that he has extended his time to me.”
In reducing the sentence, Justice Aedit Abdullah said, “For the reasons put forward, the appeal is allowed and I find that sentence will be reduced to 19 days in prison which have been served.”