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Singapore

Serial thief gets 7 years' preventive detention for stealing 385 packets of cigarettes and cash

Serial thief gets 7 years' preventive detention for stealing 385 packets of cigarettes and cash

File photo of the State Courts in Singapore. (Photo: Calvin Oh)

SINGAPORE: A serial thief with convictions dating back to 1973 was given seven years' preventive detention on Tuesday (Nov 23) for breaking into a coffee shop and stealing hundreds of cigarette packs and cash.

Toh Teck Soon, 68, was given the sentence for one charge of housebreaking to commit theft.

Preventive detention is a harsh punishment that places a recalcitrant offender in jail for seven to 20 years in order to protect the public from the offender.

The court heard that Toh was working as a helper at Superluck Food Court at Block 317, Yishun Avenue 9 in August this year.

At about 11pm on Aug 10, the coffee shop supervisor closed the premises and left with her employees, including Toh.

Toh had secretly left the transit bin area door unlocked and returned half an hour later. He took the keys for the cash register and drawers that contained cigarettes, and stole cash amounting to S$1440.90 and 385 packets of cigarettes worth almost S$4,000.

Toh placed the cigarettes in a trash bag and took a taxi to a hotel in Geylang. He later sold most of the cigarettes to passers-by for S$2,000 and threw away his clothes to avoid being caught. He bought a watch for S$140, new clothes and spent part of his criminal gains on a massage, drinks, food, transport and other personal expenses.

His supervisor reported the theft to the police hours after, and Toh was arrested. He told the police that he had spent about S$1,000 of the illicit gains on himself.

The prosecutor called for preventive detention, noting that such a sentence targets "habitual offenders whom the court considers beyond redemption" and too recalcitrant for reformation.

Toh has convictions from 1973, and was sentenced to 16 years' preventive detention in January 2004 for theft and fraudulent possession of property, the court heard.

He committed the current offences less than a year from his release from jail, the prosecutor said.

He said Toh's current offences showed premeditation and planning, "as well as wilfully taking steps to evade detection", and Toh made no restitution to the victim.

"In light of the accused's worrying pattern of offending, as well as the pressing public interest in protecting the community from audacious, persistent offenders like him, it is crucial to remove the accused from circulation for a significant period of time," said the prosecutor.

For housebreaking to commit theft, Toh could have been jailed up to 10 years and fined.

Source: CNA/ll(ac)

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