Public Prosecutor v Y ( a minor)

JudgeMay Lucia Mesenas
Judgment Date18 February 2003
Neutral Citation[2003] SGMC 3
CourtMagistrates' Court (Singapore)
Published date02 October 2003
Plaintiff CounselAppellant in person
Defendant CounselSorjan Singh
Citation[2003] SGMC 3

1 On 30 October 2002, the above male juvenile, aged 15 years and 8 months, pleaded guilty in the Juvenile Court to two charges of attempted theft and theft respectively. The charges are set out below:

Charge – Exhibit “P1”

”You, Y, (hereinafter referred to as the ‘Juvenile’), male/15 years old, are charged that you, on or about the 30th of March 2002, at about 1.00 am, outside of Blk X Bedok North Ave 4, #X, Singapore, together with W, Y and Z, and in furtherance of the common intention of you all, did attempt to commit theft of two stunt bicycles of unknown value, belonging to Abdul Ghaffar Bin Dul Rashid, and you have thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 379 read with Section 34 and Section 511 of the Penal Code, Cap 224.”

Charge – Exhibit “P2”

“You, Y, (hereinafter referred to as the ‘Juvenile’), male/15 years old, are charged that you, on or about 7.30pm, on the 8th July 2002, at No. X, Siglap Road, outside unit #X, Singapore, together with one A, and one B, and in furtherance of the common intention of you all, did commit theft of one ‘GT’ brand bicycle, valued at S$400, in possession of one Dax Young, and you have thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 379 read with Section 34 of the Penal Code, Cap 224.”

2 The Juvenile admitted to the Statement of Facts (Exhibits ‘A’ & ‘B’) pertaining to both charges, without qualification. The salient points are as follows:

(a) On 30 March 2002 at about 1.00am, the Juvenile and his accomplices went to Blk 101 Bedok North Ave 4, for the purpose of stealing bicycles and to sell them thereafter.

(b) They chanced upon two stunt bicycles outside unit #04-1950 which were secured with a chain outside the said unit. The Juvenile used a cutter he was carrying, to cut the chain whilst his accomplices acted as his look-outs. However, upon successfully cutting the chain, it fell on the ground and made some noise, whereupon the owner of the bicycles (also known as the ‘victim’ and occupant of the said flat) was alerted. He looked out and spotted the Juvenile and his accomplices who subsequently fled, without taking the bicycles which they intended to steal.

(c) On 8 July 2002 at about 7.30pm, the Juvenile and his accomplices (not the same as above), upon questioning by the security guard for the Mandarin Gardens condominium, admitted that they had stolen a ‘GT’ brand mountain bicycle, valued at S$400, from one of the units in the above-mentioned condominium. They also admitted that they brought along with them a cutter concealed inside a badminton racket cover with the intention to cut any lock should they come across any secured bicycle that they wanted to steal.

3 Accordingly, the Juvenile was found guilty of both charges on 30 October 2002. The adoptive mother of the Juvenile, Mdm C (hereinafter referred to as “the mother”), requested for Mr D, her friend and defacto guardian of the Juvenile to speak on behalf of the Juvenile. She also tendered a “Letter of Authorisation” (Exhibit “D1”) stating that Mr D was the Juvenile’s guardian (hereinafter referred to as “the guardian”) since the latter was in Primary One. Mr D was also a retired school teacher for 35 years. The Juvenile also looked upon Mr D as his “father”. In mitigation, the Juvenile, a first offender, claimed that he was sorry for what he did and wanted to be given another to continue his studies. The Juvenile’s mother wanted him to be placed in Salvation Army instead of the Singapore Boys’ Home, She also wanted him to continue his studies. Mr D also pleaded for another chance for the Juvenile. The Juvenile was released on bail to the care of his mother. The matter was adjourned to 10 December 2002 for the Probation Report on the Juvenile to be prepared. The case was further adjourned to 23 December 2002 for a Family Conference to be convened.

Probation Report

4 Ms Chua Seow Ling, the Probation Officer from Probation Services Branch, Ministry of Development and Sports (MCDS), assessed that the Juvenile was suitable for Probation, but with an additional condition of placing the Juvenile in an approved institution for a period of 12 months. Factors which Ms Chua considered in arriving at her assessment include the following:

(a) The inconsistent parenting styles between the Juvenile’s mother and the guardian, as well as their ineffective supervision;

(b) The Juvenile’s conduct in school;

(c) The Juvenile’s risk of re-offending.

The Court’s Decision

5 Section 28 of the Children and Young Persons Act Cap 38 (CYPA) enjoins every court dealing with persons under the age of 16 to “have regard to the welfare of the child or young person” and to take proper steps to remove such persons from his undesirable surroundings as well as secure proper provision for his education and training.

6 Unlike the adult courts, the Juvenile Court, in deciding the appropriate “sentence” to be made, does more than impose the dispositional order to commensurate with the gravity of the offence. It must be emphasised that the basic premise upon which the Juvenile Court decides, is how the young offender can be reformed and be re-integrated back into society. For a juvenile’s rehabilitation to be effective, the Juvenile Court has to be acutely aware of the individual strengths and limitations of the young offender.

7 In recognising that there needs to be a balance between public protection and personal accountability on the one hand, and the legislative concern for the welfare of the young offender, a multi-prong approach has to be taken in dealing with the complexities of juvenile crime. More importantly, effective family support and control are also necessary to help keep our juveniles out of crime and equip them to lead a law-abiding life.

8 It must also be noted that in considering the suitability of any juvenile for probation, the Court has to weigh the risk of further offending against the undoubted benefit of community-based rehabilitation.

9 Bearing in mind the objectives of restorative and rehabilitative justice in dealing with juvenile crime, the Panel of Advisers and this Court explored the suitability of committing the Juvenile to the care of his mother and guardian, Mr D, with outside supervision by the probation officer. In view of the recent amendments to the CYPA, we also considered other new options available under section 44(1) CYPA, for example, of placing the Juvenile in a Place of Detention (for a period of up to 3 months) followed by Probation at home or by ordering the Juvenile to perform community service (of up to 240 hours). Institutionalisation in an Approved School (between two to three years) was also considered.

10 This Court was mindful that the Juvenile is a first offender and also the fact that his mother and guardian are willing to supervise the Juvenile at home.

11 There are however risk factors which are a cause for concern and would hinder the Juvenile’s effective rehabilitation. Having considered all the facts and circumstances, the Court was of the view that probation at home is not suitable for the reasons as stated below.

Ineffective Parental Control

12 The Court took into account the fact that the mother, although concerned for the Juvenile, was however, lax in disciplining him. The guardian, on the other hand, has a strained relationship with the Juvenile, in that he swore at the Juvenile and even punched him. At times, he would be protective which was evident from the complaints that he made against the Investigating Officer (when the Juvenile was to be charged in Court) and against the school whenever the Juvenile was disciplined for his misconduct.

13 The Juvenile’s teachers in the primary and secondary schools, who came in contact with mother and the guardian, were of the view that they were not able to exert effective control over the Juvenile. Whilst the guardian generally cared for the Juvenile, he did not,...

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