Public Prosecutor v GFJ (a minor)

JudgePatrick Tay Wei Sheng
Judgment Date12 February 2023
Neutral Citation[2023] SGYC 3
CourtYouth Court (Singapore)
Docket NumberYouth Arrest Case No 900082 of 2022
Hearing Date26 October 2022,10 January 2023
Citation[2023] SGYC 3
Plaintiff CounselDSP Sufian Bin Ahmad Sarom (Criminal Investigation Department)
Defendant CounselThe defendant in person,Dr Ong Lue Ping and Dr Razwana Begum as advisers.
Subject MatterCriminal Law,Sentencing
Published date14 March 2023
District Judge Patrick Tay Wei Sheng:

The youth is 14 years of age. He pleaded guilty to a charge of theft in furtherance of a common intention under s 379 read with s 34 of the Penal Code 1871 (2020 Rev Ed). He had, with his elder brother (the “accomplice”), stolen at least 225 stored-value cards from unattended motorcycles. The thefts were committed in July and August 2022 at multiple carparks across Singapore. The total amount that was stolen was at least $2,134.

The youth was assessed to be unsuitable for probation. Having consulted the advisers, Dr Ong Lue Ping and Dr Razwana Begum, who with me constituted the Youth Court in these proceedings, I ordered the youth to reside in a juvenile rehabilitation centre (“JRC”) for twelve months. The youth has filed an appeal against this order. I now provide my reasons for it.


The prosecution adopts the recommendations of the probation officer that the youth be placed in a JRC for 18 months. It submits the youth is ill-suited to probation because he is unable to comply with such conditions as curfews and because he has a family environment that contributes to his delinquency and that makes the supervision of him in the community unviable.

The youth insists that he should not be placed in a JRC. His parents ask that he be placed on probation and explain that they want him to be at home to accompany them because their elder son, the accomplice, has been committed to the Boys’ Hostel for the thefts.


A court in sentencing a young offender approaches the task in two stages. First, it identifies and prioritises the sentencing considerations appropriate to the offender, having regard to all the circumstances of the case including those of the offence. Second, it selects 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]).

Here, it is not in dispute that rehabilitation is the primary sentencing consideration for the youth. The law presumes that rehabilitation is the primary sentencing consideration for offenders below 21 years of age because of their youthful folly and inexperience as well as the benefit to society from their rehabilitation (see A Karthik v Public Prosecutor [2018] 5 SLR 1289 at [37]). These principles apply with great force to the youth, who was just 14 years of age at the time of his offence and at the time when these orders were passed. Further, the first and paramount consideration in matters involving children and young persons is the welfare and best interests of the child (see s 4(b) of the Children and Young Persons Act 1993 (2020 Rev Ed)), which will usually be best served by rehabilitation (Public Prosecutor v GCB (A Minor) [2019] SGYC 1 (“GCB”) at [3]). I thus find that rehabilitation should be the primary consideration in calibrating the appropriate orders for the youth.

Even so, the amenability of a youth to rehabilitation and the primacy of rehabilitation in his sentencing does not mean that he will automatically be placed on the least rigorous of all the rehabilitation options. The court “may generally prefer a parsimonious approach, favouring less intrusive and less severe options [such as probation] wherever possible”, but the option chosen must be effective for the rehabilitation of the youth (GCB at [4]). Where necessary, a more rigorous order such as a JRC...

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