Year in Review: Top court stories of 2021

·Senior Reporter
·6-min read
From left: Phoon Chiu Yoke, Benjamin Glynn, Tan Beow Hiong, Shane Pow (PHOTO: Yahoo News Singapore file photos)
From left: Phoon Chiu Yoke, Benjamin Glynn, Tan Beow Hiong, Shane Pow (PHOTO: Yahoo News Singapore file photos)

SINGAPORE — From individuals who were convicted for flouting COVID-19 rules, an alleged horrific school murder to a marathoner's defamation suit, here are this year's top 10 court stories in Singapore.

Woman in viral MBS video

Phoon Chiu Yoke first made the headlines for the wrong reasons when a video of her without wearing a mask in the Marina Bay Sands shopping mall amid the pandemic went viral. Phoon was hauled to court for breaching COVID-19 measures but was later photographed without a mask outside the State Courts, resulting in another charge. Her bail was increased then revoked after she repeatedly breached orders not to reoffend. Her subsequent bids for bail were repeatedly rejected by the court. 

Phoon tried unsuccessfully to get her charges dropped on account of her “professional standing” as an ex-naval officer. For the nine charges under the COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) Act and Infectious Diseases Act that Phoon pleaded guilty to, she was jailed 16 weeks.

'Sovereign' maskless Briton jailed

One of the most high profile court cases this year involved Briton Benjamin Glynn, who appeared in a viral video maskless and criticising safe management rules in an MRT train. After the self-proclaimed "sovereign" was charged, Glynn was filmed walking into the State Courts without a mask to attend his case, and wore one only when asked by security officers. He was accompanied by a male companion who claimed he was Glynn’s lawyer from the fictional state of Kingdom Filipina Hacienda. Glynn was remanded after breaching bail conditions.

At a one-day trial during which Glynn represented himself, the expatriate was convicted and sentenced to six weeks’ jail on 18 August. As his jail term was backdated, he was released to the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority on the same day and deported to Britain. One of his alleged "sovereign" supporters was escorted out of the courtroom after she raised a ruckus and talked back to the presiding judge.

Murder at River Valley High 

The alleged murder of a 13-year-old student by a 16-year-old schoolmate of the victim in River Valley High School on 19 July sent shockwaves throughout Singapore. Screenshots of chat logs detailing the alleged horrific act were circulated online. An axe was seized from the crime scene after the incident, while students and staff at the school were evacuated. The boy was charged in court and sent for psychiatric assessment. He was initially denied a video call with his parents by the court, but the police later made such an arrangement. His case is pending before the courts.

Woman who allegedly filmed racist videos

Tan Beow Hiong caught public attention after she allegedly recorded racist videos, in which she was seen harassing a number of individuals in public, and uploaded them onto her YouTube channel from as early as 2016. Her YouTube account has been suspended. Tan was charged on 18 June and remanded for psychiatric assessment. Her case is pending. 

Mediacorp actor who hosted 12 guests during Phase 2

Mediacorp actor Terence Cao was fined $3,500 for allowing 12 guests, some of whom were fellow celebrities, into his house to celebrate his birthday in violation of safe management measures. The incident happened during Phase 2 of Singapore’s reopening, when only five house guests were allowed in a residence. A photo of the gathering at Cao's condominium unit prompted an investigation after it made its rounds on social media.

Woman who tortured then killed maid

In what was described as one of the worst culpable homicide cases in Singapore ever, Gaiyathiri Murugayan, her policeman-husband Kevin Chelvam, and her mother Prema S Naraynasamy, carried out multiple acts of torture and violence towards Myanmar national Piang Ngaih Don, leading to the death of the maid on 26 July 2016. Among them, the maid was hit with numerous hard objects, deprived of food until she lost almost 40 per cent of her body weight, and had her hand tied to a window grille to prevent her from taking food. Gayathiri avoided a life sentence on account of her mental conditions, which were said to have contributed significantly to her offending. She was jailed for 30 years. The cases against Prema and Chelvam are pending.

Telegram group "Sam’s lots of CB Collection"

Telegram group "Sam’s lots of CB Collection" was reported to the police for transmitting sexually explicit content of women. 

Four men – Lincoln Anthony Fernandez, Tan Yeow Chong, Yee Wing Kay, and Wong Ming Jun – who were the alleged administrators or had advertised sales of the group's contents were later arrested

So far, only Fernandez has been dealt with. He was jailed eight weeks and fined $20,000 after pleading guilty to two counts of circulating obscene media online via the group and one count of possessing obscene media.

The case drew comparisons with the infamous SG Nasi Lemak Telegram group, which had also transmitted illicit content of women.

Soh Rui Yong lost defamation suit

National marathoner Soh Rui Yong was found guilty of defaming fellow athlete Ashley Liew arising from comments that Soh had made about Liew's participation in the 2015 SEA Games men’s marathon. Liew said he had slowed down after a U-turn to wait for 11 other participants, including Soh, who had mistakenly missed the turn. 

Soh claimed in several social media posts that Liew did not slow down. His comments led to Liew filing a suit against Soh, who was ordered to pay $180,000 in damages to Liew. 

Shane Pow jailed for second drink driving conviction

Seven years ago, ex-Mediacorp actor Shane Pow was convicted over drink driving. In September, Pow reoffended when he drove a van after having drunk two bottles of beer at a restaurant, and failed a breathalyser test. 

As a second drink driving conviction carries a mandatory jail term, Pow was jailed five weeks and fined $6,000 on 14 July. He was also disqualified from driving for five years and was later terminated by Mediacorp

Drug courier's execution stayed due to COVID

Nagaenthran K Dharmalingam, a drug trafficker who was due to be executed on 10 November, had his death sentenced stayed a day before his hanging after he was revealed to have COVID-19. Nagaenthran turned up in person for his appeal hearing on 9 November to a courtroom packed with members of the public and reporters.

He remained in the dock surrounded by several prison officers for some 15 minutes before he was escorted out. A High Court judge later told the court that Nagaenthran had tested positive for the virus and said the case could not proceed. The case is pending. 

The 33-year-old Malaysian’s case sparked international attention due to his borderline intellectual functioning. He was given the death penalty in November 2010 for importing not less than 42.72 grammes of diamorphine. His supporters have been calling for the sentence to be dropped in light of his mental condition.

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