SINGAPORE: A cleaner was fined S$3,500 on Wednesday (May 13) for cursing at a safe distancing enforcement officer who was deployed at Hougang Mall.
The incident happened after the officer told the cleaner's wife, who was loitering outside the mall, to go home. She was outside Hougang Mall selling headscarves and waiting for a customer when she was told to leave.
Her husband Abdul Halim Adi, 48, pleaded guilty to one charge of using abusive words on a safe distancing enforcement officer.
The incident occurred at about 1pm on Apr 14 this year, during the "circuit breaker" period when most businesses were ordered to close and people were urged to stay home to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The victim, a 32-year-old HDB officer deployed as a safe distancing enforcement officer, was carrying out his work when he saw Abdul Halim's wife outside Hougang Mall.
She was waiting to hand a headscarf to a customer, and was carrying on a business outside her home when she was not an essential service provider, said Deputy Public Prosecutor Gail Wong.
The officer walked towards the woman, but she left when she spotted him.
The officer entered the mall and spotted the woman about 15 minutes later. He told her to go home, and she said she would do so.
However, the woman instead went to look for her husband, who was at the basement level of the mall near a supermarket.
She told Abdul Halim that the safe distancing officer had been following her and had told her to go home.
At this point, the officer walked past the couple. Abdul Halim saw the officer and his pass, knowing that he was enforcing safe distancing measures.
Displeased by the victim's directions to his wife, Abdul Halim hurled Hokkien vulgarities at him and said "why did you harass my wife".
The victim did not engage the pair, instead walking away and calling the police immediately.
There were about 10 to 15 passers-by at the time, with some stopping to watch.
The prosecutor asked for a fine of at least S$3,500, noting that enforcement officers tasked with performing "difficult jobs of patrolling and safeguarding public health in the COVID-19 circuit breaker period" must be protected.
"That being said, while general deterrence is the operative sentencing principle, here, the outburst was short and impulsive, and the crowd was thin, even if it was unwarranted," said Ms Wong.
She added that Abdul Halim did not have previous related convictions, and that there was no evidence of him continuing to be aggressive.
The judge allowed Abdul Halim to pay his fine in instalments by mid-November.
For using abusive words on a safe distancing officer carrying out his duty, he could have been jailed for up to a year, fined up to S$5,000, or both.