Last Teen In HDB Vandalism Case Given Last Shot At Probation

In what a district judge termed as an “exceptional” case, a teen convicted in a high profile vandalism case at a Toa Payoh HDB block last year was given a second shot at probation because of his “clear and sustained turnaround”.

While the prosecution had pressed for a more severe term of reformative training, citing Boaz Koh Wen Jie’s high culpability and the fact that he re-offended while under probation, District Judge Lim Keng Yeow took the unusual step of ordering a fresh probation of 30 months.

“The offender should be acutely aware that a second chance at probation now given to him is one which in most other cases will not be considered,” said the judge, who recognised that the 18-year-old had made “significant changes in his lifestyle” after his release from custody in May last year.

The prosecution will be appealing against the judge’s decision.

The court heard that Koh had committed himself to regular counselling and residential rehabilitation at The Hiding Place, and has now reported to have made good and stable progress over the last three months, among other things.

Koh and four others were first arrested in May last year for multiple charges related to theft, vandalism and criminal trespass. He was convicted in January.

Deputy public prosecutor Tang Shangjun stressed that Koh was the most culpable among the five as he acted first as a lookout, to ensure that all lights in the surrounding units were switched off. He was also the one who sprayed over the graffiti a second time as he “wanted to make the text bolder”.

But the judge said: “Although the viability of a fresh probation order was initially doubtful, it is my judgment, having regard to all of the facts before me, that a stringent and exacting probation order best balances all the considerations.”

He added that his recommended term of probation is longer than most terms ordered by the courts, and his “freedom will be severely curbed”, as he will be placed on a long period of residential supervision and electronic monitoring scheme for four months. Koh will also have to return to court after four months for a progress review before the judge.

Addressing the potentially cynical view that members of public will place on the court’s willingness to attach weight to an offender’s “pre-sentencing reform” in this case, the judge said that Koh will be closely monitored during his probation and tougher consequences can be imposed if he is found to have “staged (changes) purely for impression management”.

The fact that pre-sentencing offender reform is noted by the courts may also motivate some young offenders to make a sincere effort towards reform from an early stage, he added.

The maximum penalty for vandalism is a S$2,000 fine or three years’ jail. Offenders may also face up to eight strokes of the cane. Those caught trespassing may face up to three months in jail, a maximum fine of S$1,500 or both. Those convicted of theft may be jailed up to three years, fined or both.



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