The 32-driver who recorded videos of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s son Li Yipeng back in March when he was giving him a ride in his rental car has been fined S$900 on 14 November (Thursday).
The Singaporean, Andrew Sim Kay Yong, was also disqualified from driving all classes of vehicles for eight months.
Four videos, between 47 to 53 seconds, were taken without Mr Li’s knowledge or permission and went viral when it was uploaded online sometime in March.
Mr Sim, who was not a private-hire-driver at the time, pleaded guilty in court to one charge of taking a video while driving a Toyota Estima. The court heard that Mr Sim had offered Mr Li a ride home after recognising him while waiting at the Esplanade taxi stand on 15 March.
Though Mr Li initially refused, he eventually entered the car after having a conversation with Mr Sim. Mr Li asked to be taken to Rochalie Drive.
While driving, Mr Sim used his mobile phone, aiming it over his left shoulder, to record four video clips of Mr Li in the back seat while driving the car with only one hand. In the video, Mr Sim can be heard asking Mr Li various questions about whether his father is the Prime Minister of Singapore and whether the PM’s brother Lee Hsien Yang still visits the family.
As the journey progressed, Mr Li asked to be dropped off at 295 Tanglin Road instead. Mr Sim did so and didn’t take any money for the trip.
Just after the videos went viral, PM Lee’s press secretary Ms Chang Li Lin said that he was aware of the incident and the videos. She said, “It is of concern that a vulnerable person can be taken advantage of like this. Yipeng happens to be PM’s son, but many other vulnerable persons go about Singapore on their own, and they must be able to do so safely, without being taken advantage of or harassed and without their privacy being breached.”
Mr Li is PM Lee’s second child of four. He has Asperger’s syndrome.
The Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Tay Jingxi sought for the maximum fine against Mr Sim, highlighting several compounded traffic offences by him between from 2006 to April last year including taking a vehicle without the owner’s consent, speeding, beating a traffic light, and failing to wear a seatbelt.
The maximum punishment here is a fine of up to S$1,000, jail for six months, or both.
Mr Sim’s lawyer, Joseph Tan, argued in mitigation that Mr Sim was merely being a ‘good samaritan’ in offering Mr Li a ride and had only intended to show the video to his close group of friends.
It was argued that the videos were uploaded online without Mr Sim’s knowledge.
“These were circulated among the group, then unknown to him, they were uploaded online and went viral. It is quite different from him taking the videos to post online,” said Mr Tan.
He also argued that Mr Sim did stop the car at certain points but District Judge Lorraine Ho said that the car was “quite clearly” moving in most parts of the video.
She added that Mr Sim knew what he was doing and had “deliberately, conscientiously and calculatingly” took the videos.
“He not only had to take concerted efforts to hide what he was doing, he had to be sure to place his mobile phone in such a manner to ensure that he would capture the full view of the victim from top to bottom while using his other hand to drive and control the steering wheel,” she said.
“He was so distracted… that he not only caused danger to himself and his passenger, but also to other road users.”
Judge Ho also ordered for Mr Sim’s phone to be destroyed.