SINGAPORE: A serial underwear thief who left his house even during the "circuit breaker" period to steal underwear was sentenced to 23 weeks' jail on Monday (Jun 8).
The judge said the defence's description of his acts as a "peculiar hobby" was inappropriate and "grossly trivialises" the actions.
"To say that his reason for leaving his residence was unreasonable, I think is an understatement," said District Judge Teo Guan Kee.
Lee Chee Kin, 39, had pleaded guilty last month to 10 charges of theft, criminal trespass, unauthorised access to computer material, as well as breach of COVID-19 regulations.
Another 14 charges were taken into consideration for sentencing.
He stole the underwear between April 2018 and April 2020, entering victims' homes on at least 30 occasions to steal at least 34 bras, 42 pairs of panties and one pair of bra straps.
He was arrested on Jul 12 last year, and 106 bras and 41 pairs of panties were found in his house. He targeted one home four times, taking 12 bras and 12 pairs of panties worth S$1,000 by climbing over the back gate.
In the early hours of Apr 15, when COVID-19 regulations were in force prohibiting non-essential outdoor activities, Lee left his house with the intention to steal.
He was on court bail for his earlier offences when he did this, and he also failed to wear a mask. He also admitted to a separate charge of taking a man's debit card and spending S$91 with it.
PROSECUTOR ASKS FOR JAIL
Lee had been found unsuitable for a mandatory treatment order. The prosecution asked for at least six months' jail, noting that there were several charges, and that Lee trespassed into various homes with the specific purpose of stealing women's underwear.
Other than the harm caused to the victims themselves, Lee's actions also created a sense of personal insecurity affecting the neighbourhoods targeted, said Deputy Public Prosecutor Kwang Jia Min.
On the breach of COVID-19 regulations, she said that Lee had left his house for more than two hours.
Defence lawyer Roche Eng said his client was thoroughly remorseful and asked for three to five months' jail.
"What separates my clients from other cases is that my client is a bit of a late bloomer," he said. "He's developed a little later than the average person. At the time of his remand, his studies came to an abrupt end ... and he can't move on to the next stage of (his) diploma."
Lee was previously a part-time actor but was unable to obtain a full-time job, said the lawyer.
Lee addressed the judge directly, saying he hopes to continue to seek treatment. He pointed to his fiancee who was in the court and said he would continue to study and care for his elderly parents and hopes to contribute to society.
ACCUSED PLEADS FOR LENIENCY
"As I'm a first-timer, I really plead for your mercy and leniency," said Lee, who has been in remand. "It is my first time in jail. These two months in jail, I learned a lot of things inside, your honour."
"I really hope you will be lenient and merciful to me, as I really wish to be a better person and turn over a new leaf."
The judge said he agreed with the prosecution that the nature of the items stolen, the places where they were stolen and the degree of intrusion involved must be taken into account.
"The defence's description of the 'hobby' as a 'peculiar hobby' is inappropriate and grossly trivialises the accused's actions," said Judge Teo.
However, he accepted that Lee was remorseful in his own words.
For criminal trespass, Lee could have been jailed for up to three months, fined up to S$500, or both.
He could have been jailed for up to three years, fined, or both for theft.
For breaching COVID-19 regulations, he faced up to six months' jail, a fine of up to S$10,000, or both.