Photo Credit: Singapore Police Force/Facebook

Netizens support woman sentenced to probation after shouting profanity at police for wrongly arresting her; prosecutor calls for harsher punishment

Evonne Keak Yan Ting, a 24-yr-old female, was slammed with one year of supervised probation on Tuesday (18 June), after she pleaded guilty to two charges last month – using criminal force to stop a public servant from discharging their duty; and verbally abusing a public servant.

On 4 July 2018, three police officers who were patrolling around Hill Street spotted a couple on an e-scooter and wanted to stop them. But the duo escaped after noticing the officers, which prompted them to give the couple a chase on foot before losing sight of them.

In the same vicinity, one of the officers saw Keak and approached her, however, she continuously tried to move away.

Sergeant Siti Nurdiana Khairuddin held on to Keak, in an attempt to stop her from moving forward. It was claimed that Sergeant Siti’s action to restraint Keak was because she was trying to cross a road with oncoming traffic.

Retaliating to that, the 24-year-old pushed the female officer once on her chest.

Soon later, the officers found out that she was not one of the e-scooter riders that they were chasing but still arrested Keak anyway because she had pushed Sergeant Siti.

Keak also uttered vulgarities at them in the car after she was arrested.

In delivering his judgement, District Judge Tan Jen Tse also instructed her to do 80 hours of community service, and for her father to provide a S$5,000 bond to guarantee her good behaviour.

However, the merchandising specialist will not be serving her sentence immediately because Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Lim Ying Min requested for a two-week stay of execution to appeal against the sentence.

DPP Lim is pushing for four weeks’ jail, mentioning that Keak has “sufficient maturity and therefore fully able to understand the consequences of her actions”.

The prosecutor continued, “This is not a case where the accused is below 21 years; she was 23 years old when she committed the offence… To impose probation is a slippery slope. The question is, where should the line be drawn? Do we give 22-year-, 23-year-, 24-year-olds probation?”

Generally, probation – which is a rehabilitative, community-based sentencing option – is given to those who are below 21 years old, but at times can be offered to older offenders as well.

However, her lawyer Josephus Tan defended her and said that “she deserved a chance at probation”, and the investigation officer mentioned that it was a one-off, out-of-character episode.

Tan also noted that his client moved away from the officers because she was looking to take a cab “after drinking alone”.

In sentencing Keak to probation, District Judge Tan said that the woman has the right to walk away when the officer wanted to check her, as “both the legal and factual basis” for the police to stop or arrest her was not presented in the accepted facts.

The judge also pointed out that it was “most unfortunate” that one of the officers told his fellow colleague to stop her from crossing the road because “there was no sense that she was in any imminent danger”.

“The police were not even trying to place her under arrest. The action of the push by the accused was precipitated by the officer holding her. And from a reading of harassment charges, her actions were directed at the officers’ acts of arresting her and less so at them personally,” the judge was quoted in TODAY.

Keak could have been sentenced with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 4 years, or with fine, or with both for the charge of criminal assault, and a fine not exceeding $5,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or both for the charge of verbal abuse.

Upon reading this news, many questioned her sentenced to probation as they felt it was not her fault.

Writing in TODAY’s Facebook page, they said it was the police officers’ mistake for wrongly suspecting her to be one of the e-scooter riders. As such, they supported Keak and highlighted that she was not at wrong for walking away from the officers.

Others blamed the officers for their incompetency in handling this case. Since they wrongly stopped an innocent woman, many asked what is the punishment given to the officers for their mistake – like being demoted or sacked.

A bunch of Facebook users also questioned the need for DPP Lim to ask for a harsher sentence of 4 weeks’ jail term given that it was not really Keak’s mistake. They opined that the Judge’s sentenced to probation is “quite fair”.