SINGAPORE: A man who refused to wear a mask in a fast food outlet was fined S$8,000 on Thursday (Aug 18), with the prosecutor saying he showed "deliberate defiance of authority".
Philip Richard Mockridge, 55, pleaded guilty to one charge under the COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) (Control Order) Regulations, with two similar charges taken into consideration for sentencing.
Mockridge, a permanent resident, conducted his own defence. After sentencing, he asked for time to consider whether to appeal. His fine was deferred by one week for him to make his decision.
The court heard that the police received a call about a person refusing to wear his mask at City Square Mall on the night of May 16, 2021.
Two police officers responded and saw Mockridge sitting in a fast food restaurant in the mall's basement at about 9.10pm.
Mockridge's mask was pulled down to his chin, exposing his mouth and nose. He did not have any food or drink with him at the time.
A police sergeant told Mockridge that he had to put his mask on if he was not eating or drinking. Mockridge then asked to see the officers' identification, and they presented it.
The officer repeated that Mockridge had to wear his mask, and he said: "Are you sure about that? I'm not so sure."
A few minutes later, Mockridge walked away from the officers to collect his food at the counter, still unmasked. A member of the public stood next to him at the counter.
Five minutes later, Mockridge received his food and went to stand with the officers at the restaurant's entrance. He did not eat or drink at any time.
The sergeant asked Mockridge if he had an issue with wearing a mask, to which he replied: "Which law are you referring to?"
Mockridge then took out his phone and started recording the exchange. When the sergeant repeated his question, Mockridge challenged him again, asking: "Which law are you referring to?"
The sergeant referred to the COVID-19 regulations and repeated that Mockridge was supposed to wear his mask over his mouth and nose. He then replied: "And if I don't, what will you do?"
When the officer informed Mockridge of the penalties for flouting the regulations, he said: "So you're threatening to put me in a cage?"
Around 9.25pm, as Mockridge persistently refused to wear his mask despite instructions to do so, the sergeant told him that he would have to answer to any follow-up action. Mockridge then walked away with his mask still on his chin, his mouth and nose exposed.
At the time of this incident, Mockridge was already being investigated for two previous occasions when he did not wear a mask outside his home.
The earlier incidents took place at Sengkang MRT station on Nov 26, 2020, and at Serangoon MRT station on Dec 19, 2020.
"I WAS OVERLY PERSISTENT"
Deputy Public Prosecutor Wu Yu Jie sought a fine of S$10,000, pointing out that Mockridge stayed unmasked for no reason for at least 15 minutes in the restaurant.
His responses to the officers "clearly demonstrate his defiance, despite having gone through two prior incidents with the police", said the prosecutor.
In mitigation, Mockridge said that his responses to the officers were "genuine and legitimate questions" as he was uncertain about the law.
"I was overly persistent, I accept that, and that's what constituted the breach, your honour," he told District Judge Soh Tze Bian.
He also claimed he had "no reason whatsoever to be aware" of the investigations against him for the prior incidents, and had "completely forgotten" about them.
Mr Wu contended that this was not believable as Mockridge had been interviewed by police about the prior incidents in March 2021.
The prosecutor also disagreed that Mockridge's questions to the officers were genuine and legitimate, saying he had no reason to doubt their answers.
"He was not genuinely intending to accept the responses of the police, as evidenced by his escalating questions about what the police would do if he failed to comply with their directions," said Mr Wu.
Mockridge asked for a fine of S$1,000. Judge Soh said that while he did not agree with the prosecution's position to impose the maximum fine, S$1,000 was too low.
Mockridge could have been jailed for up to six months, fined up to S$10,000, or both, for an offence under the COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) (Control Order) Regulations.