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Elderly man fined for repeatedly leaving house during circuit breaker to drink and socialise

Elderly man fined for repeatedly leaving house during circuit breaker to drink and socialise

Ong King Hwa at the State Courts on May 29, 2020. (Photo: Raj Nadarajan/TODAY)

SINGAPORE: An elderly man was fined S$3,500 on Wednesday (Jun 10) for repeatedly leaving his house during the "circuit breaker" period to drink beer and meet other people.

Ong King Hwa, 63, left his flat three times during the circuit breaker period, when socialising outside of one's household was prohibited.

On the first occasion on Apr 12, he was issued an out-of-court composition fine of S$300 for breaching a COVID-19 regulation.

READ: COVID-19 court cases: Why have some people not been charged?

He was given a higher composition fine of S$1,000 on May 3 for another breach of COVID-19 regulations.

However, he did not pay the fines and reoffended with similar offences on May 8, and was later charged in court.

Ong pleaded guilty on Wednesday to two charges of breaking COVID-19 regulations, by meeting others not from his household for a social purpose and by failing to wear a mask over his nose and mouth when outside his home.

Another three charges were taken into consideration.

On May 8, a team of police officers saw Ong with two other men - Teo Han Chye, 78, and Png Han Teck, 68, sitting on the stone bench outside a supermarket at Block 74, Whampoa Drive.

They were chatting and drinking beer. The officers approached the men and noticed that they were not wearing their masks properly. The men had the masks on their chins and their noses and mouths were exposed.

Ong said that he was there with the other two men as he had "nothing to do at home".

"On compassionate grounds, the (police officers) told the three men to pack their things and go home immediately, and stated that they would return in five minutes to check, and enforcement will be taken against them if they still refused to go home," said the prosecutor.

After about five minutes, Mr Teo and Mr Png packed up and began leaving, but Ong "adamantly refused to leave", said Deputy Public Prosecutor Jane Lim.

He then took out his identity card and challenged the officers to "summon him", she said.

ACCUSED IS A RECALCITRANT OFFENDER: PROSECUTION

The prosecutor asked for a fine of S$3,500 and listed a string of Ong's past convictions. These include possessing uncensored films, failing to provide breath specimens under the Road Traffic Act, using abusive language on a public servant and using criminal force on a public servant.

"We are still in the midst of an unprecedented crisis which has dealt a heavy blow to Singapore’s economy and way of life. In the interest of public health and safety, the public cannot afford to be complacent," said Ms Lim, adding that everyone must do their part to abide by safe distancing measures.

She said Ong is "a recalcitrant offender who has repeatedly flouted safe distancing measures without any regard for the law or authority".

She added that he "ignored the chances given to him" in the form of the composition fines for the first two breaches, and went on to offend a third time.

Ong said he had gone to the bench "just to sit there" and does not have money to pay the fine as he is not working.

If he does not pay the fine, he will have to serve seven days' jail in default.

For each charge of breaking a COVID-19 regulation, Ong could have been jailed for up to six months, fined up to S$10,000, or both.

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Source: CNA/ll(aj)

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