The High Court dismissed the challenge launched by the lawyers of blogger Amos Yee Pang Sang, 16, to vary his bail conditions after seeing no reason to do so.
Amos was charged on 31 March for uploading an obscene image online and content with the intention to wound the religious feelings of Christians. Earlier, he was also charged under the Protection from Harassment Act 2014 as it “contained remarks about Mr Lee Kuan Yew which was intended to be heard and seen by persons likely to be distressed”, however the charge has since been stood down and put on hold.
Defence lawyers Alfred Dodwell and Ervin Tan had sought a reduction of Amos’ S$30,000 bail amount, and for him to be allowed to post content online apart from content amounting to the defense of his case.
Appearing in court in purple prison clothing handcuffed and legs shackled, Amos appears composed as the hearing went on.
Amos was placed back into police remand after declining bail on 30 April. On the morning of the bail review, Amos broke bail conditions of bail by posting two blog posts on his blog.
At the start of the hearing, Deputy Public Prosecutor Hay Hung Chun told Justice Tay Yong Kwang in court that the prosecution learnt only yesterday from the police that Amos’ mother had taken her son to the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) on 2 April.
When Justice Tay asked how would this information affect the actions by Attorney General’s Chamber (AGC), DPP Hay said that the AGC would have offered the bail terms at a lower condition and went on to state that if Amos was to agree to go for psychiatric counselling, AGC would agree to set the bail amount at S$10,000 and remove the requirement for Amos to report daily to Bedok Neighbourhood Police Post which takes Amos one and a half hour of travelling time from his home at Shunfu.
Representing lawyer, Mr Dodwell said that it is wrong to say that Amos’ mother is implying that something is wrong with her son with her police report that her son needs counselling and that she was simply doing what a mother would do to protect her son.
He went on to state that the visits to IMH was simply for the purpose of assessment and does not mean that there is something wrong with Amos. As a lawyer, he does not understand why is there a point to communicate this to the AGC unless there are any findings.
Mr Tan argued to the court that the bail condition to cast a blanket ban on posting to any social media platform is too broad and disproportionate and does not meet the purpose for what bail conditions were meant for, to prevent a person from absconding from court or to commit further offense.
Mr Tan also stated it is not accurate to say that an offense has been committed from Amos’ video posting as it is yet to be determined in court.
However, DPP Hay argued that Amos had already breached his bail conditions by making two blog postings while he was out on bail.
When Mr Tan asked if he would accept the offer by DPP Hay to go for psychiatric counselling in exchange for lower bail conditions, Amos declined with a firm “No” from the glass screen he was behind.
Mr Dodwell went on to argue that Amos has been using the internet since eight years old and has been using social media for engagement. Amos also use the internet to produce videos and commenting on the videos to engage viewers.
Mr Dodwell said that social media engagement is akin to drinking water for Amos and in the age of the internet, a lot of things are said online. If people are offended by something, they can walk away from the website or walk away from amosyee.com.
Mr Dodwell also said to the judge that if the condition to stop Amos from posting on social media and blog is removed, Amos’ mother and Mr Vincent Law will be willing to act as Amos’ bailor on the spot.
DPP Hay in his argument, say that he do not see that social media engagement is akin to drinking water but see it as coke to Amos, which he could do without and went on to say that Amos could still go shopping online and chat with others through private messaging.
Justice Tay said, “What so hard about that?” when Mr Dodwell told the judge that his client feels that by disallowing him to post on social media and blogging is tantamount to gagging him up. Mr Dodwell explained that teenagers at the age of 16 might not think in the way how adults think in. Justice Tay then commented that they just have to learn to curb themselves.
In his judgement, Justice Tay said that he sees no reason to vary conditions set out in the bail and dismissed the criminal motion.
Amos is back to remand at Changi Prison and will appear again in court for his two-day trial on the charges upon him. The trial is set to begin on Thursday, 9.30am at the state court.