SINGAPORE: A man who co-hosted an illegal gathering of 18 people at his Sengkang flat during the "circuit breaker" period was fined S$5,000 on Friday (Sep 11) for breaking a COVID-19 regulation.
Leong Chee Mun, 37, received a heftier fine than his co-host and then-fiancee, as he had lied to the police when they knocked on his door, saying that only he and his then-fiancee were home.
He pleaded guilty to one count of permitting people not from his household to enter his flat for a social gathering. A second charge of meeting the 16 guests for a social gathering was taken into consideration.
The court heard that Leong was engaged to co-accused Cassie Ong Shi Hong at the time. She was fined S$4,000 last month.
They agreed to hold a social gathering at their Compassvale Crescent flat after a friend suggested it, and 16 guests went to their flat on May 8.
They came into close contact with each other during the gathering - eating, drinking alcohol, playing games and watching Netflix.
This went on until a neighbour called the police at 2am saying there were "a lot of youngsters" entering and leaving the flat.
When the police arrived, an officer heard noises from inside the flat and saw many pieces of footwear outside. He also heard shushing noises from inside the flat when he knocked.
The door was eventually opened by Leong, who said he had been sleeping and lied that he and his then-fiancee were the only ones inside. He later said there were eight to 10 people in the flat, but the police entered and found 16 guests inside.
PROSECUTOR ASKS FOR HIGHER FINE AS HE LIED TO POLICE
Deputy Public Prosecutor Lee Wei Liang asked for a fine of at least S$5,000 for Leong. He said most of the guests had been fined between S$2,500 and S$3,000, while Ong was fined S$4,000.
READ: 10 fined for gathering in Sengkang flat during circuit breaker to eat, drink, game and watch Netflix
"We are submitting for a higher fine given that there is a serious aggravating factor, which is that he had knowingly lied to the police officer at the entrance of the unit," said Mr Lee.
He said the lie was given "with a view to conceal wrongdoing", and that Leong did not come clean immediately, saying at first that there were only eight to 10 people inside.
Defence lawyer James Ch'ng said a fine of S$4,000 would be sufficient, noting that his client was not the organiser of the event.
"The choice of venue was one of mere convenience," he said, adding that it was to avoid a meeting in public.
"This was a private event. It was not done in full view of the public. There was no intention to have a public disregard of the COVID-19 regulations," said Mr Ch'ng.
He said Leong was stressed at the time because of his employment situation. He was jobless during the circuit breaker period and took up delivery jobs to support his then-fiancee and his child from a previous marriage.
HE HAS IN A SENSE ALREADY BEEN PUNISHED: DEFENCE
"Ultimately, the accused had a lapse of judgment and regrets his actions. Even without the punishment of this court, he has in a sense already been punished," he continued.
He said that Leong's relationship with his former fiancee and co-host broke down in the fallout.
"He ultimately submits to the mercy of this court," said Mr Ch'ng.
In response, the prosecutor said: "They were not supposed to have met. They should just have not met, whether in private, public or anywhere else, because the purpose of this gathering was entirely frivolous."
He added that it was "not strange at all" for Leong to receive a higher fine than Ong, as there was a distinguishing factor of his knowing lies to the police.
The judge agreed that a higher fine for Leong was warranted and gave him a fine of S$5,000, with two weeks' jail in default if he did not pay.
For breaking a COVID-19 regulation, he could have been jailed for up to six months, fined up to S$10,000, or both.