SINGAPORE: A 69-year-old taxi driver was sentenced to two weeks' jail and a S$2,000 fine after insulting two National Environment Agency (NEA) officers who wanted to issue him a summons for smoking in a multi-storey car park.
On Wednesday (Sep 1), Tay Teng How pleaded guilty to one count each of using insulting words on a public servant and using criminal force on a public servant.
The court heard that on Nov 22 last year, the two NEA officers - both Malaysians of Indian descent - had spotted Tay smoking at a multi-storey car park, which is not allowed as it is a sheltered area.
The two men approached him with the intent of issuing him a summons.
Tay initially refused to hand over his NRIC, complaining that he was unable to pay and that the officers "can’t even give chance", although he eventually surrendered his NRIC to the men.
When one of the officers attempted to return his identification card back to Tay, the accused asked him multiple times if he had any hand sanitiser.
Tay said he did not know if the NEA officer was infected with COVID-19 and that he felt unsafe, adding that the officers should at least provide him with hand sanitiser.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Stephanie Chew noted that during their interaction, Tay had said to the two officers: “Hold my thing and then return back to me, don’t know whether you’re infected or not ... both of you all don’t know from India or whatever ...”
Tay threw his NRIC on the bonnet of his taxi after it was returned to him, wiping both his hands on the sleeves of one of the NEA officer’s shirts.
The accused said he had to clean them as he was “very sensitive to this sort of thing”.
"The implied context of the interaction was that the first victim should sanitise the accused’s NRIC before handing it back to the accused, because of the possibility that he was infected with COVID-19 and may be infectious," the prosecution said.
Ms Chew called for Tay to be sentenced to at least three weeks' imprisonment and a S$3,000 fine, adding that Tay’s acts were “especially offensive given the racial overtones and prevailing COVID-19 pandemic”.
The prosecutor added that the two officers remained calm and professional throughout their interactions with Tay.
The taxi driver told District Judge Luke Tan that he regretted his actions and asked for leniency, adding that he had recently suffered a stroke.
Those found guilty of using insulting words on a public servant can be fined up to S$5,000, jailed for up to a year, or both, while those convicted of using criminal force on a public servant face up to four years' jail, a fine, or both.