SINGAPORE: Egged on by his friend and feeling bored, a teenager spat over the railing on the fourth floor of a mall in Bugis towards diners in the basement.
This was in late February, when Singapore had just entered Disease Outbreak Response System Condition (DORSCON) Orange level in relation to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Polytechnic student Cai Jiaxu, 18, pleaded guilty on Wednesday (Jul 15) to one charge of public nuisance by spitting at Bugis Junction on Feb 28.
The court heard that Cai was with two friends - a 17-year-old boy who cannot be named as he is protected under the Children and Young Persons Act and 19-year-old Jolin Huang Rui Xian - at Bugis Junction shopping mall on Feb 28.
The trio were at the fourth floor of the mall between 5pm and 7pm when Cai suddenly thought of spitting over the railing to the lower floors "as he was bored and wanted to see how his friends would react", the court heard.
"He told (the 17-year-old) about this twice and asked him to hit his head to make it look accidental," said Deputy Public Prosecutor Gail Wong.
The second time Cai told the younger teen about this, Ms Huang heard the conversation and took out her handphone to record the act.
She egged the younger teen on, asking him to slap Cai's head and telling the pair that she was recording their actions.
Cai looked over the railing and saw that there were about six to seven people below, dining at the Subway restaurant on the lower floor.
With Ms Huang filming, the 17-year-old slapped the back of Cai's head and Cai spat over the railing in the direction of the Subway customers at Basement 1.
He did this knowing that his act would probably cause annoyance to the public and to the people on the lower floors.
After this, the trio left the mall. Ms Huang later posted the video in a group chat with their friends in it, and she and the 17-year-old later posted the clip on their personal Instagram accounts. They deleted the posts at around 10.30pm that same day, but the clip had already been circulated.
VIDEO CIRCULATED, MALL MAKES POLICE REPORT
The video was posted on a public Instagram account on Mar 1, with the word "idiots" written into the caption. It had drawn more than 13,000 views as of Jul 8.
In the video, the 17-year-old is seen wearing a white top and looking over the railing before hitting Cai in the head. The video then pans downwards to the people on the lower floors.
The mall did not receive complaints of spittle landing on diners or observations of spittle, said the prosecutor.
However, a representative for the mall lodged a police report on Mar 3 over the clip, concerned that the spittle could have landed on diners. The three teenagers were later arrested.
The clip on the public Instagram account drew comments from members of the public concerned about hygiene and public health risks.
One commenter said that if the person spitting had the coronavirus, more people would get it.
At the time of the offence, the COVID-19 outbreak had been widely reported in the media, and Singapore had entered DORSCON Orange.
"By this time, the Ministry of Health was already issuing daily advisories on the COVID-19 infection numbers and situation, with reminders to observe good personal hygiene, wear a mask and cover one’s mouth with a tissue paper when coughing or sneezing, to limit the spread of the disease," said the prosecutor.
The judge called for a report to assess Cai's suitability for probation and adjourned sentencing to Aug 26.
For committing public nuisance, he could be jailed for up to three months, fined up to S$2,000 or both.
Editor's note: The name of the 17-year-old has been removed due to amendments to the Children and Young Persons Act.