Court: Woman claims she sneezed due to 'bad odour' and not at security officer

Singapore, May 12, 2017: Shops In Ion Orchard Singapore
Photo from Getty Images

SINGAPORE — A woman who is accused of sneezing at a security guard at ION Orchard mall after being denied entry had her guilty plea rejected on Wednesday (20 May) after she claimed to have sneezed “naturally” due to a “bad smell”.

Taiwanese Sun Szu-Yen, 46, had originally admitted to intentionally harassing a female security guard at the entrance of the mall after being denied entry on 12 April.

Her charge states that she intentionally harassed Devika Rani Muthu Krishna at about 4.43pm by sneezing in her direction and shouting “shut up” in English. Sun then allegedly told Devika “You get it, You get it already... I am China, I am Taiwan”.

Her alleged offence is a contravention of the Protection from Harassment Act and took place after circuit breaker measures were put in place on 7 April.

On Wednesday, the statement of facts were read out by Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Deborah Lee, and CCTV camera footage of Sun and her son interacting with the security officer was shown in court.

DPP Lee called for a mandatory treatment order (MTO) report to assess Sun’s suitability for the community-based sentencing option. The prosecutor noted that Sun’s Institute of Mental Health report on 19 June last year had “tentatively diagnosed” her with mood disorder after she allegedly committed a rash act endangering the personal safety of others.

Sun is accused of throwing a model globe, plastic chair, vacuum cleaner, glass bottle and a few pencils down from level three of her Fifth Avenue condominium on 4 June.

An MTO, which lasts up to 36 months, is given to offenders deemed to be suffering from psychiatric disorders so that they can undergo treatment for their condition instead of serving jail time. Upon the successful completion of the MTO, offenders will not have a criminal record for the particular offence.

Sun initially admitted to the facts. However, when called upon to mitigate, the unrepresented woman said, “At that time I’m thinking if I am not allowed in, I should cancel my particulars and I smelled something very smelly so I sneezed and I left.

“I sneezed cause of a bad odour, it’s nature (sic). My son always sneezes at home, does this mean he is committing an offence?” said Sun in court through a Mandarin interpreter.

She claimed that when the security officer had prohibited her from entering the mall, she had wanted to delete her particulars which she had earlier filled in a form. The officer then snatched the form from her, she added.

Sun also told the court, “I was also alarmed by the victim’s behaviour...Because I felt uncomfortable then, I smelled something bad, some are allergic to the sun,” she added.

Sun’s words prompted District Judge (DJ) Eddy Tham to reject Sun’s plea and set aside the conviction that he had earlier recorded.

The DJ pointed out that some facts set out in court documents had shown that the sneezing was deliberate.

“You can try to convince the judge at the trial that (the sneezing) was done inadvertently due to odour and the judge will decide who to believe and make a decision after that. So I’m going to reject your plea of guilt now,” said DJ Tham, who accordingly arranged for a pre-trial conference for the case.

DPP Lee told the court that should Sun claim trial, the prosecution might no longer call for an MTO report for Sun.

Sun’s case is fixed for a pre-trial conference on 8 June.

If convicted of using abusive words or behaviour, Sun may be jailed up to six months and/or fined up to $5,000. If convicted of rash act endangering the life or safety of others she can be jailed up to six months, and/or fined up to $2,500.

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