SINGAPORE — A group of 10 found partying on a yacht on 26 December last year, in breach of COVID-19 regulations, were supposed to divide themselves into two groups of five, but failed to do so.
Instead, the group – twice the size of the maximum allowable group size of five – had freely intermingled and failed to observe safe distancing while on pleasure craft “Advant” for five hours.
Two from the group, Mark Lau San Mao, 30, and Amy Grace Ropner, 28, were the first to plead guilty on Monday (1 March) to one charge each under the COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) Act 2020 for gathering with other individuals not in their residence in breach of the maximum group size. They were each given a $3,000 fine.
At the time of the alleged offences, Singapore was in Phase 2 of its reopening after the circuit breaker. In Phase 2, only a maximum of five people are allowed to gather socially. The country moved into Phase 3 of its reopening on 28 December, which permitted larger social gatherings of up to eight people.
Lau, who is a Hong Kong citizen and Singapore permanent resident, and Ropner, who is British, are in a relationship and live together with one other co-accused, their lawyer Terence Tan told the court on Monday.
According to the lawyer, both are presently unemployed and intend to look for jobs in the United Kingdom. They intend to return to Singapore to live and work if permitted in the future.
The remaining eight accused are: Mark Alexander Bellamy, 29; Annabelle Morgan Duke, 26; Holmes Philip Edward Knatchbull, 27; Amy Alexandra Stewart, 32; Amy Georgina Hunt, 30; Oliver Francis William Campbell, 31; Thomas Cuthbert Williams-Jones, 31; and Benjamin David Waters, 32.
The eight – all British – have been charged but have not been dealt with in court.
Videos shared on social media
In October, Hunt had contacted the operator of the craft, Beyond Luxury, to charter Advant for 10 persons on 26 December, according to the prosecution.
On 15 October, the operator sent a confirmation email for the 10 guests. The operator also sent a voyage pass setting out the booking details.
The group however, did not arrange how they would split themselves in order not to exceed the maximum group size.
On 26 December, at around 11am, the group met two crew members who gave them a pre-departure briefing, including instructions to keep to two groups of five, with one group kept to the front and the other to the back of the craft. They were told to wear their masks while onboard the boat and not eating or drinking, and not to intermingle between the two groups.
However, the group did not keep to the instructions while onboard the Advant.
When the yacht anchored off Lazarus Island, the group had gone into the water and did not wear masks after getting back on the yacht. They also did not keep to fixed groups.
They were not charged for failing to wear masks.
The group of 10 were also seen partying by members of the public who filmed them. The videos were then shared on social media.
'Thoroughly apologetic': defence lawyer
Deputy Public Prosecutor Stephanie Koh sought fines of $3,000 each for Lau and Ropner, noting that the gathering had been purely for a social purpose and had been twice the size of the maximum allowed.
Defence counsel Tan, who sought a $1,000 fine for his clients, said that both his clients were “thoroughly apologetic, remorseful and contrite for letting their guard down and for having contravened (the regulations)”.
Both had decided to plead guilty after they were charged and accepted what the prosecution had set out after co-operating with authorities during investigations, Tan said.
Tan added that the craft had been allowed to take up to 20 passengers subject to safe distancing measures at the point of the incident.
The co-accused person, Hunt, had initially wanted to book the craft for up to five persons, however the bookings agent had said its capacity was for up to 10, in its initial email exchange, said the lawyer. The craft later received conditional approval to carry 20 passengers, valid from 9 September 2020 to 9 March 2021, according to Tan.
For breaching COVID-19 measures, each could have been jailed up to six months and/or fined up to $10,000.
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