Public Prosecutor v GFN

JudgeEugene Tay
Judgment Date29 March 2023
Neutral Citation[2023] SGYC 5
CourtYouth Court (Singapore)
Docket NumberYouth Court Appeal: YA 0003-2023-01, Case No.: YC-900084-2022
Hearing Date07 March 2023
Citation[2023] SGYC 5
Plaintiff CounselMr Vimala Raj S/O Pathmanathan, Police Prosecutor,
Defendant CounselThe Youth in person, with natural parents
Subject MatterCriminal Procedure and Sentencing,Sentencing,Young Offenders,Children and Young Persons Act
Published date05 April 2023
District Judge Eugene Tay: Introduction

On 12 December 2022, the youth, GFN (“the Youth”) pleaded guilty to a total of 4 charges and consented to another 6 charges to be taken into consideration. On 7 March 2023, after considering a probation suitability report (“PSR”) prepared by the probation officer, Ms Selina Lim (“PO”) and the views from 2 advisors from the panel of advisors to the Youth Court1, I ordered the Youth to be sent to Singapore Boys’ Home (“SBH”), a Juvenile Rehabilitation Centre (“JRC”), for a period of 24 months (“JRC Order”)2. I also ordered the parents to be bonded $1,000.00 each to attend counselling (“Counselling Order”)3.

The father of the Youth, being dissatisfied with my decision, filed an appeal on 13 March 2023. I now provide the full grounds of my decision.


The Youth was first charged in Court on 7 November 2022. He was remanded in SBH until 28 November 2022 when his mother posted bail for him.

The Youth was present with his parents as well as his god-parents at the hearing on 12 December 2022 when plea was taken. The following table provide a summary of the charges the Youth faced:

S/n Date of Plea Charge Proceed / TIC
YAC number Offence
1 12 Dec 2022 YAC-900636-2022 Harassment of his mother by threatening her with a knife on 6 November 2022. Section 3(1)(a) of the Protection from Harassment Act 2014 TIC
2 YAC-900658-2022 Voluntarily causing hurt to his mother by punching her in the face and body and using a black acrylic to hit her causing bodily pain on 6 November 2022. Section 321 of the Penal Cod 1871 TIC
3 YAC-900659-2022 Threatening his 12 year old sister by pointing a knife at her and threatening to kill her, with the intent to cause death, on 6 November 2022. Section 506 read with Section 74B of the Penal Code 1871 Proceed
4 YAC-900660-2022 Voluntarily causing hurt to his 12 year old sister by strangling her on the neck causing bodily pain on 6 November 2022. Section 321 read with Section 74B of the Penal Code 1871 Proceed
5 YAC-900661-2022 Criminal intimidation by threatening his older sister, with the intent to cause death on 6 November 2022. Section 506 of the Penal Code 1871 TIC
6 YAC-900662-2022 Making threatening communication against a public servant on 6 November 2022. Section 6(1)(a) of the Protection of Harassment Act 2014 Proceed
7 YAC-900663-2022 Voluntarily causing hurt to his mother by hitting her on the head causing bodily pain on 20 October 2021. Section 323 of the Penal Code 1871 Proceed
8 YAC-900664-2022 Causing hurt to his mother by doing a rash act by throwing a bottle to hit her head causing injuries on 20 October 2021. Section 337(a) of the Penal Code 1871 TIC
9 YAC-900665-2022 Intentional harassment of the victim by using insulting words and pointing the middle finger on 14 March 2022. Section 3(1)(a) of the Protection of Harassment Act 2014. TIC
10 YAC-900666-2022 Wilful trespass of premise appropriated to public purposes on 12 Apr 2022. Section 21(1) of the Miscellaneous Offences (Public Order and Nuisance) Act 1906. TIC

There was a medical report from the Institute of Mental Health (“IMH”) dated 24 November 2022 (“IMH report”) addressed to the Court whereby the IMH psychiatrist stated, among other things, he was of the opinion that: The Youth has Conduct Disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). There is no contributory link to his alleged offence. He was not of unsound mind at and around the material time of the alleged offence. He is currently fit to plead in a Court of Law.

The Youth confirmed in Court that he would plead guilty to the proceeded charges, and that he understood the nature and consequences of doing so. He admitted to the contents of the Statement of Facts (“SOF”) without qualification, and was found guilty of the proceeded charges. He also consented to have the remaining charges to be taken into consideration.

I heard the mitigation plea by the Youth, his parents as well as his god-parents. The Prosecution was prepared to leave the orders to the Court and had no objections for a PSR to be called. I called for a PSR to be prepared and adjourned the case for orders to be passed on 31 January 2023. The date was subsequently re-fixed to 7 March 2023, on request by the PO, as the PO was on medical leave for about 2 weeks in January 2023 and needed more time to complete the PSR.

At the hearing on 7 March 2023, the Youth appeared with his parents. The recommendation of the PO in the PSR was read and explained to the Youth and his parents. The PO had assessed the Youth to be unsuitable for probation and recommended that the Youth reside in SBH under a JRC order for 24 months.

The Prosecution had no submissions, except that it took the view that the PO’s recommendation is appropriate, given the nature of the offences committed by the Youth.

The Youth expressed his desire for probation, while the parents did not agree with the PO’s recommendation and asked for the Youth to be placed on home probation. They added that they will file an appeal if an order was passed as recommended by the PO.

After considering the contents of the PSR and the views of the 2 advisers and having heard from the Prosecution and the Youth and his parents, I passed the orders as stated at [1] above.

Issue to be determined

Since the Youth had pleaded guilty instead of contesting the charges brought against him, the main issue to be determined is the appropriate orders to pass for him.

The Relevant Law

When a Court deals a youthful offender, there are two distinct but related stages (PP v Mohammad Al-Ansari bin Basri [2008] 1 SLR(R) 449 at [77] to [78] and PP v Koh Wen Jie Boaz [2016] 1 SLR 334 (“PP v Boaz Koh”) at [28]). The first stage is for the Court to identify and prioritise the primary consideration appropriate to the youth in question having regard to all the circumstances including those of the offence. This will then set the parameters for the second stage of the inquiry, which is to select the appropriate order that would best meet those considerations and the priority that the judge has placed upon the relevant ones.

The dominant consideration for youthful offenders will generally be rehabilitation (PP v Mok Ping Wuen Maurice [1998] 3 SLR(R) 439 at [21] and PP v Boaz Koh) at [29]). However, the focus on rehabilitation can be diminished or even eclipsed by such considerations as deterrence or retribution where the circumstances warrant, and broadly speaking, this happens in cases where (a) the offence is serious, (b) the harm caused is severe, (c) the offender is hardened and recalcitrant, or (d) the conditions do not exist to make rehabilitative sentencing options such as probation or reformative training viable (PP v Boaz Koh at [30]).

The High Court in PP v Boaz Koh also observed at [34] that:

“34…if rehabilitation remains the primary consideration, then the court can consider one from among the wide range of sentencing options it has at its disposal. These include options such as community-based rehabilitation, probation, placement in a juvenile rehabilitation centre, reformative training, fines, caning and imprisonment. Each of these sentencing options, or a combination of them, vindicates one or more of the classical principles of sentencing (ie, retribution, deterrence, prevention and rehabilitation…) to varying degrees and extents within an overarching emphasis on the rehabilitation of the youthful offender.”

For completeness, I was also guided by the statutory principle set out in section 4(b) of the Children and Young Persons Act 1993 (“CYPA”) which states that in all matters relating to the administration or application of the Act, the welfare and best interests of the child or young person must be the first and paramount consideration.

Decision Rehabilitation is the dominant consideration

The Youth was born in mid December 2006. The offences took place between October 2021 and November 2022, when he was between 14 to 15 years old. At the time the JRC Order was passed on 7 March 2023, he was about 16 years and 2 months old.

Although the Youth’s offences are numerous and those that involved aggression are undoubtably serious, given his relatively young age, I did not think that the primacy of rehabilitation as the dominant consideration was diminished or eclipsed. I therefore took the view that rehabilitation remained the dominant consideration under the first stage of the inquiry.

The next step under the second stage of the inquiry is to ascertain the appropriate orders to be passed for the Youth, in particular, whether a less severe order such as probation or a more rigorous and strict order such as a JRC order is appropriate.

At this point, it should be emphasised that just because rehabilitation retains primacy as the dominant consideration does not necessarily mean that the Youth will automatically be given the least intrusive or severe option by the Court, if it is not in his welfare and best interests. I found the following comments by the Court in PP v GCB (A Minor) [2019] SGYC 1 (“PP v GCB”) helpful: The Youth Court operates with the welfare and best interests of the juvenile as its first and paramount consideration. 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 fact and...

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