SINGAPORE: An air-conditioner repairman was sentenced to 10 days' jail on Thursday (Jul 22) for negligently causing a fire at a police divisional headquarters by throwing a cigarette butt into a rubbish-filled area.
The fire damaged the wall, ceiling, flooring and air-conditioning fittings, costing more than S$5310 to repair.
Indian national Ganesan Shanmugam, 30, pleaded guilty to one count of negligently causing a fire by throwing a cigarette butt that was not extinguished.
The court heard that Shanmugam was assigned to perform night shift maintenance work at Ang Mo Kio Police Division Headquarters with a colleague.
While he was at the ground level beside the main switch room, he felt an urge to smoke. It was not convenient for him to head outside to smoke, as it was raining heavily, so he decided to smoke outside the main switch room, said the prosecutor.
At about 11.45pm, he finished smoking and threw the cigarette butt into a nearby area that was littered with rubbish including discarded cardboard boxes.
He thought the cigarette butt had been extinguished and did not check if it was.
Shanmugam went with his colleague to rest at a nearby storeroom but about 20 minutes later, his colleague realised there was a fire nearby.
They returned to the area where Shanmugam had been smoking and saw the flames. The pair took fire extinguishers and put the fire out before cleaning the area.
A police officer on duty smelt something burning, and both police and firefighters soon arrived at the location. The cause of the fire was traced to Shanmugam, who did not dispute that he threw the cigarette butt.
As a result of the fire, the wall, ceiling, floor and air-conditioning fittings were damaged. It cost S$5313.17 to repair the damage, which was borne by company ST Synthesis, a services arm of ST Engineering.
The prosecutor sought two to three weeks' jail, noting Shanmugam's remorse.
Shanmugam, who had no lawyer and appeared visibly nervous, told the judge that his monthly salary was only S$800 and that he was unsure if he could afford any fine.
He said he suffered from neck pain due to having to continually look up to repair air-conditioning systems and said he had undergone a lot of stress due to the incident.
He said through an interpreter that it might be better for him to return home and that he did not intentionally cause the fire, but did so through a negligent act that he acknowledged and was remorseful about.
The judge granted his request to defer the jail term, which Shanmugam will begin serving on Monday.
For negligently causing fire, he could have been jailed up to 18 months and fined.