Toothpicks in bus seat case: Judge casts doubt on potential harm

Hannah Teoh
Senior Content Producer
Man who allegedly stuck toothpicks in bus seats charged. Photo: Facebook

A man who put toothpicks in bus seats with the pointed ends sticking out has pleaded guilty to two charges of causing mischief.

On Wednesday (11 October) in the State Courts, District Judge Lim Keng Yeow questioned about the harm that might be caused by a person sitting on toothpicks and whether a jail term is justified in such a case. 

Lim Lye Seng, 60, pleaded guilty to committing the offenses four times this year between July and August on SBS Transit bus number 123M along Lower Delta Road.

According to court documents, Lim took the toothpicks from a coffee shop near Tiong Bahru and committed the offences because he was bored and wanted to play a prank on others.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Rimplejit Kaur asked for a short custodial sentence, arguing that damage was caused to public property and that there was an inherent risk of hurt that could have been caused if a member of the public were to sit on the toothpicks.

Kaur also pointed out that Lim committed the act on four occasions. No incidents were recorded of passengers sitting on the toothpicks. Looking at photos of the toothpicks in court, DJ Lim noted that “not all that much of the toothpick seems to be protruding from the seat”.

He then asked how much harm sitting on the toothpicks would have caused, suggesting that given the length of the sharp end sticking out of the seat, someone sitting on the toothpicks might press them into the seat. “I am uncertain as to the harm this would cause,” he said.

In response, DPP Kaur said there would have been some pain experienced by the passenger if the toothpicks came into contact with the passenger’s thigh or buttock. DJ Lim then said he was uncertain if the likelihood of pain would justify a custodial sentence.

In July, a passenger who was on the bus posted photos of the toothpicks in the seat on social media. The police received a report about the incident on 4 August and identified Lim through closed-circuit television footage. The cost of the damage to the bus seats was over $1,300.

In mitigation, Lim, who works as a landscape technician, asked for a fine instead of a custodial sentence. He told the court that he is supporting two young children and his elderly parents. Lim, whose case will be heard again on 6 November, faces a maximum one-year jail term and/or fine.

More Singapore stories: