SINGAPORE: A 35-year-old woman who breached her stay-home notice to meet her friends on the pretext of visiting a doctor for a rash was sentenced to 12 weeks' jail on Wednesday (Sep 16).
Rameswari Devi Jairaj Singh was charged with one count of failing to comply with her stay-home notice by leaving her hotel and spending more than a week outside.
Rameswari first arrived in Singapore on Apr 30. Having entered from Johor Bahru, Rameswari was asked to complete and submit an online health declaration form at Woodlands Checkpoint.
She declared her place of accommodation as the Ibis Singapore Novena Hotel at Irrawaddy Road and was issued a stay-home notice for the period of Apr 30 to May 14, said Deputy Public Prosecutor Timotheus Koh.
An Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) officer had explained the requirements of the stay-home notice to Rameswari and told her she was not allowed to leave her hotel room during the duration of her notice. She was also shown a copy of the notice, said Mr Koh.
Rameswari understood the requirements of the stay-home notice and was taken to the hotel by a bus provided by the ICA after she had cleared immigration, the prosecutor added.
Investigations showed that Rameswari left the Ibis hotel on May 4 on the pretext of seeing a doctor for a rash.
"She took a Grab car to Toa Payoh but did not visit a doctor. Instead, she wandered around the Toa Payoh area looking for friends," said Mr Koh.
Rameswari then took a Grab Car to Redhill MRT station. By then, it was the night of May 5.
Mr Koh said Rameswari later ran into a friend and spent the night at his home.
On the morning of May 6, Rameswari left his unit and travelled to Siglap to look for friends. There, she travelled to Tiong Bahru where she stayed at Tiong Bahru Park from May 6 to May 12.
Rameswari only returned to the hotel on May 12. She did not visit a doctor during the time she was away, said Mr Koh.
BREACH IN THIS CASE IS "SEVERE"
Mr Koh said a sentence of at least four months' imprisonment is appropriate, adding that the breach in this case is severe, with the duration being "unusually long" and "spanning more than a week (nine days)".
"This is more than half of the accused’s isolation period (nine out of 14 days). To aggravate matters, she travelled extensively around Singapore whilst in breach," he said.
He added Rameswari's culpability in this case was also high, knowing well what the requirements of the stay-home notice were but "wilfully disregarded" them.
There was also an element of deception in the case, said Mr Koh.
Rameswari had told the hotel staff she wanted to leave the hotel to see a doctor for a rash, but did not see a doctor when she took a car to Toa Payoh.
She did not dispute this but claimed in mitigation that "she did not have the intention to leave the clinic without seeing the doctor" but was overcome by emotions and felt that she "did not have any choice", he said.
Mr Koh added that the claim was without merit and should not be accepted.
"If indeed her heat rash was as severe as claimed, her decision to not see a doctor but go and look for friends is baffling and indicative that she did not actually intend to see a doctor in the first place.
"In this regard, it bears emphasising that, at no point in her nine days of moving around Singapore, did she see a doctor for this purported rash," he said.
The prosecutor also compared Rameswari's case to a previous case involving a stay-home notice breach spanning several days.
He said the present breach was much longer. It had involved more locations and was for a "frivolous purpose", rather than work in the previous case, as well as the "abovementioned deception by the accused".
For breaching her stay-home notice, Rameswari could have been fined up to S$10,000, jailed for up to six months or both.