Woman without mask at MBS denied bail, to plead guilty

Phoon Chiu Yoke, 53, seen leaving the State Courts without her mask on 24 May 2021. (PHOTO: Dhany Osman / Yahoo News Singapore)
Phoon Chiu Yoke, 53, seen leaving the State Courts without her mask on 24 May 2021. (PHOTO: Dhany Osman / Yahoo News Singapore)

SINGAPORE — The woman who appeared maskless in a viral video and is facing multiple COVID-19 related charges failed in her bid for bail when her case was heard on Wednesday (4 August), and indicated she would be pleading guilty to her charges.

Phoon Chiu Yoke, 54, was remanded on 24 July after she allegedly reoffended while on bail. This was for allegedly failing to wear a mask while visiting Mandarin Orchard hotel at around 3pm on 25 June this year.

Phoon first made headlines after a viral video of her circulated online, which shows her being questioned by a Safe Distancing Ambassador (SDA) for not wearing a mask while visiting the Marina Bay Sands mall on 15 May this year.

Subsequent investigations found that she had allegedly committed similar offences dating back to the middle of last year. She was charged on 25 May.

The former naval officer, who faces 22 charges, asked District Judge Terence Tay via videolink on Wednesday to release her without bail and to have her passport returned. She appeared on screen without a mask and put it on shortly after.

Phoon said that she had agreed in an earlier pre-trial conference to accept the prosecution's offer to have her charges "dropped to" nine, and said that should she be released on bail, she will turn up for her plead-guilty hearing. Her plead guilty mention has been fixed for 12 August.

"I have a professional record, between (23 July until I) was brought out to today, I have not maliciously committed other offences and I want to state that I have no criminal record in Singapore," she said.

"I have a stellar professional standing. I have no reason to run (and I) have not run away from court. I always appear on time as requested by investigation officers."

Clarification on charges

Deputy Public Prosecutor Jane Lim clarified that Phoon still faces the same number of charges, just that some charges would be taken into consideration for her sentencing if she pleaded guilty.

DPP Lim added that Phoon had not committed any new offences since 23 July as she was remanded a day later, and could not have possibly re-offended while in custody.

Rejecting Phoon’s request for bail, DJ Tay noted that the pandemic was “far from over” and that the wearing of mask and other measures were important safeguards that Phoon had failed to comply with.

Even before Phoon was charged in court on 25 May, she had already faced a National Environment Agency charge for failing to wear a mask at Newton Food Centre.

“Given the egregious nature of these breaches, one right outside of the State Courts when she was claiming trial to the NEA charge, they speak for themselves," added DJ Tay.

"I am not persuaded that the original order of no bail should be disturbed."

In reply, Phoon requested for someone to stand bail for her so that she could prepare for her plead guilty mention. However, DJ Tay told her that he had already passed the order of no bail.

For each charge of contravening a COVID-19 control order, Phoon potentially faces up to six months' jail, a fine of up to $10,000, or both. If convicted of being a repeat offender, she can face twice the jail time or fine.

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