SINGAPORE: A teenager accused of drinking from juice bottles before returning them to a supermarket shelf had his guilty plea rejected on Friday (May 22) after he maintained that he did not consent to the caption "how to spread Wuhan virus".
Nigel Pang Yew Ming, 17, is accused of taking two bottles of fruit juice from a refrigerated shelf at the NTUC FairPrice supermarket at 2 Bukit Batok West Avenue 7 on Feb 6 and drinking from them.
He then placed the bottles back on the shelf, with his friend Quek Xuan Zhi, also 17, accused of filming the incident and posting it on Instagram.
The video was captioned "how to spread Wuhan virus" and was posted to an account with at least 1,360 followers, the court heard on Friday.
Pang was in court with his mother to plead guilty to his actions, but insisted that he did not know about the caption.
As a result, the judge rejected his plea as he said this formed an important part of the charge.
"I wish to add that actually I didn't know that the caption 'how to spread Wuhan' was being uploaded to the video, because that wasn't my intention of the video," said Pang.
"If you now say that you do not know that Quek actually inserted the caption and intended to upload it to Instagram, then you are qualifying a very material portion of the statement of facts," answered District Judge Seah Chi-Ling.
READ: Teens charged after one filmed the other drinking from bottles, returning them to supermarket shelf
Pang said he did consent to the video being posted, but said he did not know about the accompanying caption.
"I really did not know that the caption 'how to spread Wuhan' was being added until it went viral, then I realised it was being added," said Pang, who was unrepresented.
His mother told him to "just say the truth".
Deputy Public Prosecutor Timotheus Koh said Pang had given a statement indicating that he knew that Quek would caption the video "how to spread the Wuhan virus".
Pang contested this, saying that he "really did not know" about the caption until it went viral. He said Quek usually asked him about captions but said he did not this time.
The prosecutor said he intended to ask for a probation suitability report, but would reserve his position on whether to seek probation until after the report was tendered.
Pang said he wanted to "continue with the sentencing", saying: "I'm really stressed with the whole thing."
However, the judge explained that he could not accept the plea as it stands.
He allowed Pang some time to speak to his mother, but Pang maintained that he did not know about nor consent to the caption.
The judge adjourned the matter for Pang to get a lawyer.
Quek's case is still pending, with the next mention scheduled for June.
The penalty for public nuisance is a maximum jail term of three months, a fine of up to S$2,000 or both.