Public Prosecutor v GFF (a minor)

JudgePatrick Tay Wei Sheng
Judgment Date26 January 2023
Neutral Citation[2023] SGYC 2
CourtYouth Court (Singapore)
Docket NumberYouth Arrest Case No 900068 of 2022
Hearing Date20 December 2022,17 October 2022,31 October 2022
Citation[2023] SGYC 2
Plaintiff CounselDSP Sufian Bin Ahmad Sarom (Criminal Investigation Department)
Defendant CounselThe defendant in person,Dr Francis Heng and Esther Ng as advisers.
Subject MatterCriminal Law,Sentencing,Proportionality,Young offender committing a minor offence,Young offender needing institutionalised rehabilitation for substantial duration,Whether proportionality applies in calibrating term of institutionalisation
Published date02 February 2023
District Judge Patrick Tay Wei Sheng:

The youth is 15 years of age. He pleaded guilty to a charge of intentionally causing alarm by making a threatening communication under s 3(1)(b) of the Protection from Harassment Act 2014 (2020 Rev Ed) (the “POHA”). He had published a photograph of a makeshift weapon that comprised a kitchen knife taped to a bamboo pole. He had captioned the photograph, “come knocking on my door cunt”. He had by this publication intended to make his mother and other persons “stay away from him”.

The youth was assessed to be unsuitable for probation. Having consulted Dr Francis Heng and Ms Esther Ng, the advisers who with me constituted the Youth Court for these proceedings pursuant to s 38 of the Children and Young Persons Act 1993 (2020 Rev Ed) (the “CYPA”), I ordered the youth to reside in a juvenile rehabilitation centre (“JRC”) for six months. The youth has filed an appeal against this order. I now provide my reasons for it.


The youth published the photograph of the makeshift weapon and its caption on his profile page on the WhatsApp Messager mobile application. The publication was seen by his classmates and his Form Teacher, who sent a screenshot of the publication to his mother. His mother was alarmed by the publication and feared for herself and her bedridden husband because the youth was “known to go berserk suddenly”. His mother eventually reported the matter to the police the following day.

The police attended at the family residence in response to this report. There, they found the youth locked in his room. They asked the youth to open the door to the room, but the youth declined to do so. They used a key to enter the room, in which they found the youth brandishing the makeshift weapon. They arrested the youth, who did not put up any struggle.

The youth was remanded at the Institute of Mental Health for a psychiatric assessment. He was diagnosed with Social Communication Disorder and Adjustment Disorder. But he was found to be of sound mind and fit to plead.


The prosecution adopts the recommendations of the probation officer that the youth be placed in a JRC for 24 months. It highlights several factors that render the youth ill-suited for probation. First, the youth has become increasingly aggressive due to his poor coping and problem-solving skills and his limited regard for the law. Second, the youth is unreceptive to professional help for his issues. Third, the family of the youth cannot adequately manage him in the community because of his father is physically bedridden from paralysis while his mother is emotionally burnt out. Fourth, the youth has suicide ideation and a depressed mood, and in the light of his Social Communication Disorder and Adjustment Disorder, needs close monitoring and psychological intervention.

The youth insists that he should not be placed in a JRC. He claims that the two weeks that he had spent in a JRC while in remand is enough for him. He adds that he had made the publication simply to procure personal space. He explains that he had been frustrated with his mother and his teachers who had been urging him to attend school. He asserts that he had constructed the makeshift weapon then photographed and captioned it in a last-ditch attempt to keep his mother out of his room.

Sentencing considerations for young offenders

A court in sentencing a young offender approaches the task in two stages. It first identifies and prioritises the sentencing considerations appropriate to the offender, having regard to all the circumstances of the case including those of the offence. This sets the parameters for the second stage of the inquiry: selecting the sentence that best meets those sentencing considerations and the priorities between them (see Public Prosecutor v Koh Wen Jie Boaz [2016] 1 SLR 334 at [28] (“Boaz Koh”) citing Public Prosecutor v Mohammad Al-Ansari bin Basri [2008] 1 SLR(R) 449 at [77]–[78]).

As Sundaresh Menon CJ observed in A Karthik v Public Prosecutor [2018] 5 SLR 1289 (“Karthik”) at [37], rehabilitation is presumptively the primary sentencing consideration for offenders below the age of 21 for two rationales. The first is the retrospective rationale, which justifies rehabilitation for a young offender on account of his youthful folly and inexperience and which rests on age of the offender at the time of the offence. The second is the prospective rationale, which justifies rehabilitation for a young offender on the grounds of his receptiveness to a rehabilitative regime, the benefit to society from his rehabilitation, and the disproportionate suffering that he would endure as compared with an adult offender when exposed to the typical punitive options, and which rests on the age of the offender at the time of sentencing

In the Youth Court, the offender will be very young and will invariably be well below the age of 21 at the time of the offence and the time of sentencing. The two rationales that underlie the presumptive primacy of rehabilitation as...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT