SINGAPORE: A man admitted on Wednesday (Apr 29) to verbally abusing police and safe-distancing enforcement officers who were trying to enforce compliance with COVID-19 measures.
The prosecutor urged the court to impose at least 10 months' jail, calling the case one of the first of its kind. He added that it presents "an important opportunity for this court to send a clear message that such conduct will not be tolerated".
Ravi Sinathamby Subramaniam, 52, pleaded guilty to three charges of abusing and threatening health officers. Another five charges will be taken into consideration for sentencing.
The court heard that the abuse occurred on two days this month. On the first occasion on Apr 14, Ravi went to convenience store Hao Mart at Block 74, Whampoa Drive.
As he was disturbing customers, police were called to the scene and found Ravi standing in the queue, holding an open can of beer and reeking of alcohol.
He complained loudly about why the queue was not properly organised, said Deputy Public Prosecutor Timotheus Koh.
When the police spoke to Ravi, he turned aggressive and spoke loudly to the officers, trying to leave and refusing to cooperate.
His actions drew the attention of the public, who crowded around to watch the scene.
Ravi, who hurled multiple vulgarities at the officers, was arrested for being a public nuisance, but continued to resist arrest and curse loudly.
The second incident was on Apr 18 in the same neighbourhood. Ravi was queuing up at a coffee shop at Block 81, Whampoa Drive, to buy food.
However, he was wearing his face mask over his chin and not over his nose and mouth. This was spotted by one of three health officers enforcing safe-distancing measures in the area.
When approached by one of them, Ravi turned aggressive and cursed at the officer. Her colleague intervened and told Ravi that they were just doing their job and reminded him to wear his mask.
Ravi turned to the second officer, cursed and said: "You don't let me see you again if not I will break your face."
Fearing that Ravi would attack them, the first officer called the police.
OFFICERS STOPPED TALKING TO HIM FOR THEIR SAFETY
The three officers watched as Ravi entered a convenience store, and when he left, he again said: "The next time I see you, I will break your face."
The officers stopped engaging Ravi for their personal safety. They were prominently wearing tags identifying themselves as safe-distancing enforcement officers, the court heard.
Ravi has a long list of previous convictions for violence and abusing and threatening others, including public servants, said Deputy Public Prosecutor Timotheus Koh.
"This is one of the first few cases to come before the courts where an accused is to be punished for abusing and threatening violence against our frontline officers who have the critical and challenging task of enforcing anti-COVID-19 measures," said Mr Koh.
"This case presents an important opportunity for this court to send a clear message that such conduct will not be tolerated and that deterrent sentences will be imposed in such cases."
He asked for at least 10 months' jail, noting that "wilful defiance of frontline officers enforcing anti-COVID-19 measures is dangerous and anti-social as it has the potential to put the health of law-abiding individuals in Singapore at risk".
He added that health officers and police officers make "tremendous personal sacrifices" and put their health and lives at risk by enforcing anti-COVID-19 measures at public places".
"Without the important contributions of these frontline officers, especially during this critical stage in our fight against COVID-19, we would not be able to effectively break the cycle of the COVID-19 transmission," said Mr Koh.
He added that Ravi's actions in the Apr 14 incident drew a crowd of onlookers, while his conduct in the second incident occurred at a coffee shop at lunchtime.
Ravi cried while giving his mitigation and apologised to the public servants and the Government, saying he was drunk when he committed the offences.
"Give me one chance, my mother is old ... I promise when I come out, I won't drink already," he said.
For not wearing a mask over his nose and mouth at all times outside his home, he could be jailed for up to six months, fined a maximum S$10,000, or both.
He could be jailed for up to a year, fined a maximum S$5,000, or both for cursing at a public servant.