SINGAPORE: A man who was sentenced to three months' jail for stealing a tap from a police station in Woodlands had his term reduced to about three weeks' jail after a successful appeal in the High Court on Friday (Nov 1).
Seah Kian Li, 50, had been given three months' jail in August for filching the S$171.20 tap from Woodlands Police Division HQ on Mar 1, while bailing his brother out.
The crime was discovered almost a month later when a cleaning supervisor noticed that a tap was missing from the toilet.
A closed-circuit television camera facing the entrance of the men's toilet captured Seah unscrewing the basin tap and taking it away. He took it home and installed it in his own toilet.
Allen & Gledhill lawyers Rajan Sanjiv Kumar, Christine Tee and Rebecca Chia on Friday urged the court to decrease Seah's sentence to three weeks, or the 19 days' jail he has already served.
The lawyers had been appointed by the Law Society Pro Bono Services Criminal Legal Aid Scheme to act for Seah, who was released on bail pending appeal.
Mr Sanjiv, who was acting pro bono, told Justice Aedit Abdullah that the sentence was manifestly excessive.
"In a nutshell ... this is a case of Seah unscrewing a tap at a police station, (with) no premeditation in relation to the offence ... and no damage to the tap," said the lawyer.
He readily admitted to his crime when the police went to raid his house, said Mr Sanjiv.
Seah had pleaded guilty to one charge of vandalism, which carries penalties of up to three years' jail or a maximum S$2,000 fine.
"This is not a case where Seah went on a vandalism spree, much unlike the case relied on by the district judge," he said.
The lawyer cited other cases with worse circumstances where the offenders had received lighter sentences, and stressed that he did not lay any blame on the district judge as Seah had been unrepresented in the lower courts and the judge had no duty to mitigate for his client.
The basin tap was a single item, with a relatively low value, and there was minimal damage to public property, he said.
"This is not surprising given that the basin tap was already loose, and Seah had used only his hands to unscrew the tap," said Mr Sanjiv. "In addition, minimal or no loss was ultimately suffered as the tap was eventually recovered by the police."
"I understand (the tap) is in the safe custody of the authorities now," said Mr Sanjiv. "I understand that like-minded individuals are certainly not going to want to steal a tap (now)."
He said the deterrent message was "understood" and "received", and pointed out that Seah's last conviction was in 2008 for an unrelated incident of drink driving, and that he had been "well-behaved" for 10 years.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Nicholas Khoo did not object to the appeal, informing the court that the prosecution had conducted an internal review after Seah was sentenced and "were also of the view that the sentence was a bit high".
The judge granted the appeal and reduced the jail term to 19 days, which Seah has already served.
He commended both sides for their efforts on the case, saying he appreciated that the prosecution had taken the position not to oppose the appeal.
"This shows that the system works, and I'm grateful for Mr Khoo that he's extended his time to me," said Mr Sanjiv.