Store packer who left home to buy food while on stay-home notice jailed

Store packer who left home to buy food while on stay-home notice jailed

Chong Chun Wah (2)
Chong Chun Wah, a 48-year-old Singaporean who breached his stay-home notice, is seen outside the State Courts on Apr 21, 2020. (Photo: Hanidah Amin)

SINGAPORE: Despite being caught in the act leaving his house to buy food while on a stay-home notice, a man went out again to go to a coffee shop, claiming that it was not crowded.

Chong Chun Wah, 47, was sentenced to five weeks' jail on Wednesday (May 6) for one count of breaching his stay-home notice

Another two charges of doing so to check his letterbox and the first occasion of visiting a coffee shop were taken into consideration.

The court heard that Chong, a store packer, returned to Singapore from Batam, Indonesia on Mar 17.

He was given a stay-home notice by an Immigration and Checkpoints Authority officer and ordered to stay home from Mar 17 to Mar 31.

He understood the notice, which stated that he could not leave his home even to buy food and essentials, and acknowledged it by signing on it before clearing immigration and heading home.

However, ICA officers visited Chong's home on Mar 24 and realised that he was not home.

Chong said he left his flat to buy food from a coffee shop in Jurong East, three to four bus stops away.

The officers reminded him of the importance of adhering to his stay-home notice, and he acknowledged this.

However, Chong left his home again four days later on Mar 28, popping downstairs to check his letterbox.

A day later at about 1pm, he walked to a coffee shop in Bukit Batok which was about 140m away from his home.

He went there to buy food and claimed that it was not crowded, said Deputy Public Prosecutor V Jesudevan. He returned home about 30 to 45 minutes later.

Mr Jesudevan asked for at least seven weeks' jail, saying that Chong had "flagrantly breached his stay-home notice".

MORE THAN 138 INVESTIGATIONS INTO BREACHES OF SUCH ORDERS

The prosecutor said this case was "regrettably not an isolated one", and that more than 138 investigations into breaches of stay orders or stay-home notices had been initiated as of Apr 27.

"Unless there is an immediate change in attitude and behaviour by certain members of the public about the seriousness of compliance with the law, the number of breaches, and potentially the number of COVID-19 cases in Singapore, will rise," said Mr Jesudevan.

He said it was necessary for the court "to send a clear message to the public that breaches of stay-home notices will not be tolerated, and that severe punishments will be meted out".

"The COVID-19 pandemic has plunged the world into an unprecedented crisis. To date, the disease has claimed 18 lives in Singapore and dealt a heavy blow to Singapore's economy and way of life," said the prosecutor. 

"In these unsettling times, it is critical for a person to comply with the requirements of either a stay order or stay-home notice issued to him, and not to roam about in public to expose others to the risk of infection."

He said that Chong had gone out on Mar 29 for the same reason to buy food despite being reminded to comply with his stay-home notice after his first breach on Mar 24.

"His utter disregard for the safety of people outside his place of accommodation must be met with condemnation," said Mr Jesudevan.

Chong, who was unrepresented, pleaded for leniency and said he has to manage and pay for his house and rental bills.

He initially asked to serve his sentence a day later in order to settle matters for his two-year-old son, but later said he would begin his sentence immediately.

For breaching his stay-home notice, he could have been jailed for up to six months, fined up to S$10,000, or both.

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Source: CNA/ll(cy)

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