In his judgement on why reformative training was not imposed on a teenager who had beaten up some foreign workers, District Judge Lim Keng Yeow said that while the penalty aims to be rehabilitative, its incarcerative nature meant that courts should exercise this option with caution.
The judgement was made in relation to the sentencing of Daryl Lim Jun Liang, 19, who had beaten up foreign workers to “practice his martial-arts skills”.
Judge Lim had opted for 10 days of detention and other conditions for Lim, ruling that reformative training for Lim would amount to a “sledgehammer approach”, given the offender’s high capacity for community rehabilitation.
Detention means that Lim would be locked up for 10 days. He would also have to do 150 hours of community service, report daily to a supervision officer for a year and remain indoors from 10pm to 6am.
Judge Lim also considered other circumstances that supported the lighter sentence for Lim – a supportive family and a supportive employer that as willing to re-employ him.
He demonstrated a capacity for rehabilitation “high enough to outweigh other retributive or deterrent considerations calling for tough sanctions”, Judge Lim had said.
“Even adults who commit the exact same offence of voluntarily causing hurt would not have been sentenced to a substantial prison term lasting several months,” he was reported by media as saying.
“Given the nature and duration of reformative training as it now stands, it should be imposed cautiously, perhaps with as much care as when a physician prescribes very strong medication carrying notable potential side effects,” wrote Judge Lim. “The courts have absolutely no reason to flinch from imposing reformative training, where it is appropriate. But care ought to be taken not to impose it gratuitously.”
Judge Lim also noted the prosecution’s “unfortunate and undesirable” about-turn in submissions on sentence. It had apparently made no submission for an RTC sentence at the start, yet objected to probation and pushed for reformative training despite having “not more but less reason to press for tougher sanctions”, he said.
Reformative training is usually imposed on offenders aged between 14 and 21, whereby they will be housed at a Reformative Training Centre (RTC) for at least 18 months, with a possibility of extension.
RTC sentences results in a criminal record, while probation is deemed not to be a conviction.
The Deputy Public Prosecutor had earlier told the court that imprisonment or a fine were unsuitable for Yee, because they would “not have any impact on (Yee’s) insight and self-control, and that is not tenable, because we cannot be popping back into court every other day.”
Yee was found guilty of offences relating to the Penal Code section 298, for a YouTube video he uploaded that criticised former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew; and section 292 for a caricature he uploaded depicting Mr Lee and former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher engaging in sexual activities.
Section 298 offences – uttering words with a deliberate intent to wound the religious or racial feelings of any person – carries a maximum jail term penalty of three years, a fine or both. Section 292 offences – including the distribution of obscene material – carry a maximum penalty of three months in jail, a fine or both.
Pending his sentencing, Yee has been in remand at Changi Prison.
Daryl Lim was found guilty of voluntarily causing hurt, an offence that carries a maximum penalty of two years in jail, a fine of up to $5,000, or both.
Adapted from media reports.