Woman seen without mask gets 14 new charges, challenges prosecutor who says she breached bail conditions
SINGAPORE: A woman who appeared without a mask in a viral video shot at Marina Bay Sands was given 14 new charges on Tuesday (Jul 6) and repeatedly challenged a newly appointed prosecutor.
Phoon Chiu Yoke, 53, turned up in a black suit and white mask and was handed new charges for not wearing a mask on multiple occasions and exposing others to the risk of infection by leaving her hotel room during her stay-home notice.
Among the locations she is accused of not wearing a mask at are St Andrew's Cathedral, Bras Basah Complex and Tiong Bahru Market.
She now faces 21 charges in total, mostly for failing to wear a mask without reasonable excuse over a period of about a year from mid-2020.
The case was fronted by a deputy public prosecutor from the Attorney-General's Chambers on Tuesday. Deputy Public Prosecutor Jane Lim successfully sought an increase of bail for Phoon, from S$8,000 to S$12,000.
Citing her reasons for the increase, Ms Lim said Phoon now has more charges and alleged that Phoon failed to comply with bail conditions to surrender to custody.
She said Phoon ignored all calls, an email and voicemails to her that were left by Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) officers over the past week. She also refused to speak to the ICA investigating officer on Tuesday morning before her court hearing, said Ms Lim.
"It has come to our attention that after the last court mention ... there was express direction that the accused must abide by COVID-19 restrictions ... quite unfortunately, investigations are under way for a fresh offence committed after the court date, as recent as Jun 25, 2021," she added.
She asked for Phoon to be warned again not to breach bail conditions, failing which she could be liable for fresh offences.
READ: Woman seen without a mask asks again for charges to be dropped, citing 'immunity' as a citizen and as an ex-SAF officer
Phoon, who remained unrepresented, told District Judge Lorraine Ho: "Your honour, in defence I want to state that many of these charges read to me just now were not presented to me previously."
On the attempts by ICA officers to contact her, she said: "I challenge that, because I get a lot of prank calls on my mobile phone, so sometimes I just miss my calls. As to the email they sent me, I have not given my email account to any of the ICA officers, and it is not uncommon that I miss one or two emails if it's directed to (spam)."
She added that ICA officers could have sent her mail to her registered address, and stated that she "challenges" the prosecutor's claims that she had failed to be contacted or to respond to ICA.
She added that the ICA officer who approached her outside the courtroom was "very aggressive".
"I have reason not to engage in conversation with him when he was in such a highly emotional state," she said.
Phoon added that she has medical reasons for not wearing a mask, saying she has eczema and that wearing a mask can cause rashes. She added that she has a "long medical history", some self-inflicted and some incurred during her naval service.
"I also have the problem of feeling breathless. If I'm wearing a mask and feeling breathless, I think it's the most natural human response to pull it down instead of collapsing ... (in order) to fulfil bail conditions," she said.
"As a responsible Singaporean, I have complied with bail conditions as much as I wanted to."
She reiterated her stand to ask the prosecutor to drop all the charges based on her previous occasions serving as a naval officer where she was a plaintiff and eyewitness to "many incidents".
READ: Woman seen on video not wearing mask asks AGC to drop charges, claims errors in investigations
The prosecutor Ms Lim responded that the ICA officers said someone had picked up the phone when they called Phoon, only to hang up. The ICA officer had contacted Phoon's bailor, who confirmed that he would inform Phoon of ICA's request for her to cooperate with investigations.
"The accused has raised medical reasons and her time in service," said Ms Lim. "The prosecution's position is that the accused should refrain from listing irrelevant reasons at this forum and the most appropriate way to move forward is to have the matter fixed for pre-trial conference."
She cited Phoon's statement on complying with bail conditions "as much as she wanted to", stressing that bail conditions are directions by a court and not to an individual's "whim and fancy".
"She must comply ... or face the consequences. It's not up to her if she wants to or not," said Ms Lim.
Phoon said she challenged this, asking the prosecutor: "If I'm breathless, do you expect me to wear a mask and collapse?"
She said she should be getting her passport back and asked for a pre-trial conference to settle many of her charges. The judge cut her off and said she would be varying her bail conditions as requested by the prosecution and set a pre-trial conference for Jul 23.
Judge Ho told Phoon: "Please remember to wear your mask properly."