Public Prosecutor v GCB (A Minor)

JudgeLim Keng Yeow
Judgment Date12 March 2019
Neutral Citation[2019] SGYC 1
CourtYouth Court (Singapore)
Docket NumberYouth Court Appeal YA-001/2019/01, Case No. YC-900068-2018
Published date20 March 2019
Hearing Date26 February 2019
Plaintiff CounselDSP Mohd Shaharuddin
Defendant CounselThe offender in-person with the parents in attendance
Citation[2019] SGYC 1
District Judge Lim Keng Yeow: INTRODUCTION

The juvenile offender in this case was aged 15 years 3 months at the time orders were made. Of his 16 charges, he pleaded guilty to eight of them and admitted to the other eight and consented for them to be taken into consideration. The following Table provides a summary of his three sets of charges:

YAC number Offence
1. 16/8/2018 900502-2018 VCH s.323 r/w s.34 PC PROCEED
2. 900575-2018 Theft s.379 PC
3. 900576-2018 House trespass s.451 PC
4. 900587-2018 Rash act s.336(a) PC
5. 900500-2018 Rash act s.336(a) PC TIC
6. 900501-2018 Theft s.380 PC
7. 900574-2018 Criminal trespass s.447 PC
8. 900588-2018 Theft s.379 PC
9. 900589-2018 Theft s.380 PC
10. 900590-2018 Theft s.380 PC
11. 900683-2018 Theft s.380 PC
12. 20/12/18 900849-2018 Drug consumption s.8(b)(i) MDA PROCEED
13. 901018-2018 VCH s.323 PC
14. 901017-2018 VCH s.323 PC TIC
15. 15/1/19 900026-2019 Drug consumption s.8(b)(i) MDA PROCEED
16. 900027-2019 Drug possession s.8(a) MDA

After considering the reports put up by the Probation Officer, fully weighing the mitigation pleas made by parents and the offender, and hearing the views of the panel of advisers1, I made a Juvenile Rehabilitation Centre order placing the offender at the Singapore Boys’ Home for 24 months. The father of the offender, desiring that he be placed on probation instead, has filed an appeal. These Grounds explain the reasons for the order made.


The Youth Court operates with the welfare and best interests of the juvenile as its first and paramount consideration2. Keenly aware that the offenders before the court are still very young and are capable of being moulded, the court’s primary concern is not that of calibrating and meting out punishment proportionate to the offence. Neither is deterrence a foremost consideration, especially general deterrence. Instead, the court focuses primarily on finding rehabilitative measures and solutions that are most workable for the juvenile, given the facts and circumstances of the case.

Such an approach cannot mean that a less intrusive or less severe option such as probation is always chosen, as though every juvenile would be entitled to it by virtue of his youthfulness. The court may generally prefer a parsimonious approach, favouring less intrusive and less severe options wherever possible3. But it has ultimately to ensure that the order chosen would be one that best serves the interests of the young offender before it. More rigorous orders will have to be imposed where they are needed.


The above was the exact approach taken in this case. Full consideration was first given as to whether the probation regime was viable before other options were weighed. I concluded that the option was unworkable and would not serve the offender’s interests. The factors considered in deciding whether probation was appropriate can be grouped under two main headings: the offender’s characteristics and suitability for probation, and the availability of sufficient family support and supervision. Weaknesses in just one area can sometimes be compensated for by sufficient strengths in the other, making probation still viable. However, deep concerns and deficiencies in both would almost certainly mean that probation is not in the offender’s best interests.

Before I go on to address these two areas, I found it very helpful, in the course of deciding on the order to be made, to view the sequence of events in their chronological order. Hence I first set out the chronology of events in this case. Reference will be made to the three reports put up by the Probation Officer (“PO”). I will refer to the initial Probation Report as the “PSR”, the first Supplementary Report dated 9/1/19 as “SR1”, and the second Supplementary Report dated 18/2/19 as “SR2”.

5/7/18 Offender was first produced in court
16/8/18 Offender pleaded guilty to first batch of charges PSR called for
31/8/18 Offender committed drug consumption (YAC-900849-2018)
10/9/18 Offender committed VCH (YAC-901018-2018)
12/9/18 Date of PSR: During interview process, informed PO that he stopped consuming drugs since Apr 2018 Assessed to be of “very high risk” of reoffending Probation recommended
18/9/18 Mention date for orders for first batch of charges Court decided to hold Family Conference before making orders
27/9/18 Family Conference vacated as court became aware that the VCH matter (YAC-901018-2018) was under investigation
13/10/18 Offender stayed away from home, fearful of being placed in custody
17/10/18 Charged for drug consumption (YAC-900849-2018)
22/10/184 Offender committed additional drug consumption and possession (YAC-900026-2019 and YAC-900027-2019).
20/12/18 Prosecution proceeded on YAC-900849-2018 and YAC-901018-2018 Offender pleaded guilty Court called for SR1
9/1/19 Date of SR1: probation not recommended
15/1/19 Prosecution proceeded on YAC-900026-2019 and YAC-900027-2019 Offender pleaded guilty Court called for SR2
18/2/19 Date of SR2: probation not recommended
The offender’s personal characteristics

I now deal with the offender’s personal characteristics and his suitability for probation. Here, I took into account a number of considerations.

His offending behaviour was deep-seated with clear signs of recalcitrance

This was not a case involving a one-off or isolated offending, or offending that was out of character for the individual. There were a total of 16 offences and they were spread across a 17-month period: from 29/3/17 to 26/10/18. Some of the offences were relatively minor, but it was clear that not all of them were.

In addition, the number of charges did not tell the whole story. By his own admission, his thefts, for instance, started at age 13. After that, he had committed so many thefts that there was no way he could recall the number of times he had stolen5. His involvement in drugs was also anything but fleeting and superficial. All these were clear indications of a rather deep-seated offending behaviour.

There were other worrying indications of his degree of persistence in offending. It was after he had pleaded guilty to the first batch of offences on 16/8/18 that he committed a further drug consumption offence6 on 31/8/18 and a voluntarily causing hurt offence7 on 10/9/18. This was most unusual. By the time of the offences, he was already undergoing interviews with the PO in relation to the earlier offences and was awaiting court orders thereto. He should know better than to commit other offences.

Unfortunately, this was not all. There would be a third set of offences. He committed the additional drug consumption8 and possession9 offences around 26/10/18. This was just five days after he had been charged in court for his earlier drug consumption. He was still awaiting orders for his first two sets of offences. All this further showed an unusual measure of recalcitrance in his offending.

His drug offending

Of all the offences he committed, his drug offending was of the greatest concern. By his own admission, he had an early onset, in 2017 and at the age of 14. Before long, he had consumed drugs to the point where his own father made a choice in April 2018 to report him to the authorities. That did nothing to deter him. In October 2018, the parents had to admit him to hospital when they suspected he was ‘high’ on drugs and behaving erratically10. Again, in November 2018, when they parents had him assessed by a psychologist, he had to be prescribed with medication to manage his substance dependence11.

The offender obviously knew how to obtain drugs12. He also said he, despite his young age, had the financial means to do so13. With his numerous thefts despite being from a relatively well-to-do family and evidently being given sufficient pocket money for his sustenance, I draw the inference that he could have stolen to obtain drugs as well. Added to what I have already mentioned concerning his repeated drug offending despite being already charged, everything pointed to a rather entrenched problem with drugs.

Poor attitude toward offending and low amenability toward probationary supervision

While the persistence in offending would show the absence of true remorse, it was also necessary to look for other signs as to the offender’s attitude towards his offending. In this regard, what an offender professes and promises are not ignored. But the presence or absence of other signs would also be important, such as indications of insight into and honesty over his offending behaviour, clear and authentic display of remorse and the ability to make changes.

In this unusual case where the matter remained uncompleted for some seven months, there was every opportunity for the offender to display or develop a positive attitude over his offending. Unfortunately, none of that was evident or sustained. While the school reported initial improvement after the offender was charged in court14, that quickly fizzled out when he committed further offences in school15. The PO did earlier report that he expressed regret for his offences, but he also “displayed minimal insight”16 as to the seriousness of his offences. Even in subsequent reports, all the PO was able to report was that he “expressed some remorse”17 while at the same time wanting probation on his own terms.

I looked for other signs indicating amenability to probationary...

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