Woman, without mask in viral MBS video, asks judge to drop charges

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 — An ex-naval officer charged for not wearing a mask in various places appeared in court again on Tuesday (8 June) and asked for her charges to be dropped due to "procedural errors".

Phoon Chiu Yoke, who faces seven charges of not wearing her mask in various places and breaching her Stay-Home Notice, said repeatedly to District Judge (DJ) Janet Wang that she was of "strong professional standing", served in the navy for 12 years and was its first female commanding officer.

Phoon was filmed in a confrontation with a safe-distancing ambassador (SDA) at Marina Bay Sands last month. The incident on 15 May was caught in a viral video showing Phoon demanding to see the SDA's badge. Phoon also removed her mask after leaving court on 24 May, when she was photographed and filmed by the media.

The 53-year-old, who was brought to court on Tuesday after her remand period at the Institute of Mental Health, suggested to the prosecutor and Attorney-General's Chambers to "drop" the case before further "administrative inconveniences" were caused to parties.

The prosecution applied for an adjournment and bail of $10,000 to be imposed on Phoon, saying that additional charges relating to similar offences might be tendered. The prosecutor added that if Phoon were to be placed on bail, she would have to abide by COVID-19 regulations, including wearing a mask.

In response, Phoon, who was wearing a blue shirt and a mask over her nose and mouth, said, "I'd like to apply for the charges to be dropped and for me to be discharged."

"This is in consideration that I am (a) professional, I was an ex-naval officer and I have strong professional standing. I also have (a) series of ex-medical history which in most other cases, most other people will be... dependent on respiratory system."

Phoon to defend herself

Phoon claimed that when the investigating officer (IO) first came to her place, there were various "procedural errors", such as the IO failing to verify her identity and arresting her without an arrest warrant.

Asked if she will be seeking legal representation, Phoon said she will be defending herself but will seek legal advice.

Phoon also asked for the bail amount to be reduced to $3,000. In response to the judge's question about a bailor, she said that her friends were mostly overseas, or ill and of old age.

The DJ then informed her that bail would have to be imposed in light of the number and nature of charges she faces. The judge then ordered an $8,000 bail, warning Phoon that she had to abide by COVID-19 regulations.

Phoon then asked which regulations these were, to which DJ Wang replied, "To put a mask on in public spaces."

Phoon replied, "Yes, your honour".

She will return to court on 15 June.

The maximum penalty for breaching COVID-19 measures is six months' jail and a fine of $10,000. Repeat offenders can be jailed for up to one year and fined up to $20,000.

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