SINGAPORE: Six men and one woman were charged in court on Tuesday (Jun 2) with breaking a COVID-19 regulation by meeting each other near Robertson Quay during the “circuit breaker” period when social gatherings were prohibited.
The seven are: Neil Gordon Buchan, a 30-year-old British national; Perry Scott Blair, a 37-year-old British citizen; Bao Nguyen Brown, a 40-year-old American; Jeffrey George Brown, a 52-year-old American; Michael Czerny, a 45-year-old Austrian national; James Titus Beatt, a 33-year-old British national and Joseph William Poynter, a 35-year-old British citizen.
They are each charged with one count of breaching Regulation 6 of the COVID-19 regulations by meeting each other without reasonable excuse between 6pm and 6.44pm on May 16, either at Rosso Vino at 15 Merbau Road or TAP@Robertson Quay, a short walk away.
Czerny and the Browns are accused of meeting at the TAP@Robertson Quay bar for chatting and drinks, while Beatt, Poynter, Buchan and Blair are accused of meeting each other to chat and drink at Rosso Vino.
The Browns and Czerny are represented by Mirza Namazie, while Shashi Nathan is defending Beatt and Buchan. Lawyer Christopher Bridges is representing Poynter and Blair.
The case was adjourned to Jun 16, and S$3,000 bail was offered to each of them. Lawyer Shashi Nathan said that his client's charge was an Urban Redevelopment Authority one and that usually no bail is required.
However, Deputy Public Prosecutor Timotheus Koh said the prosecution would be asking for bail because of the "complexion" of the case.
Mr Namazie said Bao Nguyen Brown is not a flight risk and has a son in school here. She has also been in Singapore for 14 years and is on an employment pass.
However, Mr Koh said she is a foreigner and pressed for bail. He did so for the rest of the accused.
The court heard that Czerny is a permanent resident and has two children in school here.
No indications were made on whether any of the accused would plead guilty or claim trial.
The incident drew attention when Facebook user Lectress Pat posted photos of the alleged gatherings at Robertson Quay on May 16.
The post, which questioned enforcement levels in the heartlands versus those in other areas such as Robertson Quay, has since been shared more than 2,000 times.
A day after this, the Urban Redevelopment Authority issued a written direction to some restaurants in the area selling takeaway alcohol to cease doing so.
READ: COVID-19: Robertson Quay restaurants ordered to stop selling takeaway alcohol to prevent gatherings
This had contributed to gatherings around the premises, said Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli. Two days after the incident, he said the police had traced a number of those who gathered in the area and added that the "non-Singaporeans" were currently under police investigations.
On May 30, Mr Masagos announced that the seven would be charged for breaching safe-distancing measures at Robertson Quay on May 16.
"We take such breaches very seriously and will not hesitate to take action," he said.
The Ministry of Manpower had said in a statement on Monday that foreigners working in Singapore on work passes "must abide by our laws".
"Regardless of pass types, those who are convicted (of) offences risk having their work passes revoked, in addition to an employment ban," said a spokesperson.
He added that the ministry has "consistently revoked the work passes of persons convicted of criminal offences or for making false declarations in work pass applications".
These include holders of work permits, S Pass and Employment Passes, with more than 100 Employment Pass holders having their work passes revoked in the last three years.
MOM said that circuit-breaker measures are strictly enforced, with "Singaporeans and foreigners alike" penalised for flouting the rules in widely publicised cases.
"Work pass holders are reminded to take these rules seriously, for their own protection and the safety of the community at large," said the spokesperson.
For each charge of flouting COVID-19 regulations, the accused can be jailed for up to six months, fined up to S$10,000, or both.