Ye Lin Myint v Public Prosecutor

JudgeSundaresh Menon CJ
Judgment Date18 September 2019
Neutral Citation[2019] SGHC 221
CourtHigh Court (Singapore)
Hearing Date19 July 2019
Docket NumberMagistrate’s Appeal No 9029 of 2019
Plaintiff CounselFoo Cheow Ming (Foo Cheow Ming Chambers)
Defendant CounselChristopher Ong and Thiagesh Sukumaran (Attorney-General's Chambers)
Subject MatterCriminal Procedure and Sentencing,Sentencing,Criminal intimidation by anonymous communication
Published date21 September 2019
Sundaresh Menon CJ: Introduction

Over the course of a month spanning August and September 2017, the appellant waged a campaign of criminal intimidation and harassment against clients and prospective clients he had come to know in his capacity as an insurance agent, and also against members of the public. The appellant employed sophisticated means of concealing his identity, using anonymised email accounts and setting up a Bitcoin wallet in the hope of receiving payments anonymously. He also operated under the guise of various pseudonyms, including “Lord Voldemort” and “Dr Bruce Banner”. His communications threatened the recipients with physical harm, reputational damage, loss of employment, and imprisonment, amongst other things. These communications caused considerable distress to those who were unfortunate enough to receive them, and reached a sufficiently large number of people that public disquiet was occasioned. The appellant was ultimately discovered to be the author of these communications, and in all, 43 charges were brought against him.

The Prosecution proceeded with 13 charges. Five of these charges were brought for criminal intimidation by anonymous communication contrary to s 507 of the Penal Code (Cap 224, 2008 Rev Ed) (“PC”), and eight charges were for harassment by threatening communications contrary to s 3(1)(b) of the Protection from Harassment Act (Cap 256A, 2015 Rev Ed) (“POHA”) and punishable under s 3(2) of that same Act. The appellant pleaded guilty to all these charges, and consented to the remaining 30 charges being taken into consideration (“TIC charges”) for the purposes of sentencing.

The appellant was sentenced to a total of 29 months’ imprisonment in the State Courts. He appealed on the grounds that that sentence was manifestly excessive. I heard the appeal on 19 July 2019, and dismissed it giving brief oral grounds at the time. I take this opportunity now to set out the detailed grounds for my decision, and also to set out a sentencing framework for the offence of criminal intimidation by anonymous communication under s 507 PC.


The facts are drawn from the statement of facts to which the appellant admitted without qualification (the “Statement of Facts”).

The appellant was formerly an insurance agent. He is a Myanmar national, and also a Singapore permanent resident. During the course of his employment as an insurance agent, the appellant became upset with several of his clients who failed to turn up for scheduled appointments with him, or had taken steps to cancel insurance policies that they had purchased from him. He was also upset with prospective clients who had met with him but eventually decided not to purchase insurance policies from him. The appellant became disgruntled and angry, and felt that these persons had treated him badly and had disrespected him. In revenge, the appellant decided to embark on a campaign of criminal intimidation against them.

The s 507 PC charges

The appellant did this by means of communications which took the form of letters and emails. These were the subject of the five proceeded charges under s 507 PC. Four of the communications were sent as initiating communications where the appellant reached out to the recipients for the first time, while the remaining one was sent to follow up on an earlier communication.

The former category comprised fairly lengthy and detailed communications which contained essentially the same elements. First, the appellant addressed the recipient by name, demonstrating his familiarity with them. Second, the appellant adopted a false identity, varying from a single parent with a single sick child, to a single parent caring for three young children. Third, the appellant declared that he was desperate and in need of the recipient’s help. Fourth, the appellant further reinforced his familiarity with the recipient’s life, by asserting that he knew where they lived and worked and that he “basically… [knew] everything about [them]”. In one of these communications, he also mentioned accurate details about the recipient’s life by naming the recipient’s workplace and identifying the recipient’s daughter. Fifth, the appellant declared that this was only “Stage 1, introduction” and threatened that he would move on to “stage 2, 3, and so on”, with the recipient’s life getting “more miserable” with the advancing stages. Sixth, the appellant threatened to humiliate the recipient, or make him or her jobless, or destroy his or her reputation, or even physically harm the recipient or the recipient’s family members. Seventh, the appellant demanded that the recipient transfer him 1 Bitcoin at a specific wallet address. Eighth, the appellant asserted that reporting the matter to the police would be futile, and reminded the recipient that he was “desperate” and that the recipient had been specifically targeted. In this regard, he explicitly stated that “[he was] already inside and [the recipient] [could] not do anything to stop [him]”. Finally, the appellant signed off under the pseudonym of “Lord Voldermort [sic]”.

As regards the final email, the appellant targeted a recipient who had previously received one of his earlier threatening communications. In this later email, the appellant threatened that things would get worse for the recipient, because up to this point his actions had only been “warm ups”. The appellant in the email in question threatened the recipient and his wife with irreversible attacks that would “destroy [the recipient’s] life and reputation”, and demanded an increased amount of 1.5 Bitcoin.

Each of the recipients of these communications felt alarmed by the communications and made a police report. For convenience, I refer to these individuals as the “first set of victims”. The appellant explained that he had sent out these threatening letters and emails because he wanted the first set of victims to know that it was “not nice to do bad things to people who did not do anything to them”. He had obtained the personal details used in the letters from his interactions with the victims, who were either his clients or prospective clients.

The communications which were the subject of the five proceeded charges were received on various dates between 16 August and 4 September 2017. The five communications that were the subject of the five TIC charges were received between 23 August and 7 September 2017.

The POHA charges

Some time after the appellant commenced this first spate of criminal behaviour, he came across a news article about unlicensed moneylenders harassing debtors for failing to repay their debts. He learnt from this article that in order to pressure the debtors to make payments, the moneylenders would resort to harassing the debtors’ neighbours. The appellant took perverse inspiration from this article, and decided to harass not only the first set of victims, but also the neighbours and family members of those individuals. I refer to this latter category of individuals as “the second set of victims”.

The appellant did not personally know any of the second set of victims. Instead, he randomly targeted these individuals and identified their addresses using Google searches.

The contents of these communications were more varied than those which are the subject of the s 507 charges. In most of these communications, the appellant falsely represented to the recipients that one of the first set of victims was indebted to him. The appellant threatened the recipients with the prospect of his harassing their homes or workplaces, if they did not persuade the person concerned from the first set of victims to pay him what he was owed. Some of these communications went into graphic detail, such as warning of the recipient’s “gate [being] on fire or red paint all over [the recipient’s] unit”. Others also raised the prospect of physical harm to the recipient’s family. In one particularly troubling letter, the appellant threatened the recipient with “attacks” that would “leave [her] and [her] husband with scars in [her] life that are irreversible”. And in another, the appellant threatened to “destroy [the recipient’s] reputation, [her] career and [her] life within a month”. Although the appellant did not know most of these individuals, he nevertheless made efforts to personalise the threats. For example, he cautioned one victim against thinking that he would be safe because he lived in private property. The appellant signed off as either “Lord Voldemort”, “Lord Voldermort” or “Dr Bruce Banner” in these communications.

Each of the individuals in the second set of victims felt harassed by the communications they received and reported the matter to the police. Significantly, one of them, a 65-year-old retiree, was sufficiently fearful of the threatened acts that he immediately took steps to meet his daughter to show her the letter, and then also arranged for his daughter to escort his grandchildren home while he reported the matter to the police.

Further, the appellant’s actions also attracted significant media attention, and the Singapore Police Force and a Member of Parliament, Dr Lee Bee Wah, had to issue online advisories advising recipients of these communications not to respond to them and instead to report any suspicious activities.

This second wave of criminal behaviour took place in August and September 2017. The communications which were the subject of the eight proceeded charges were received between 21 August and 10 September 2017. The communications which were the subject of the remaining 25 TIC charges were received between 21 August and 12 September 2017.

Details about the email accounts and Bitcoin address

Where the communications took the form of a letter, the appellant signed off either as “Lord Voldemort”, “Lord Voldermort” or “Dr Bruce Banner”. Where the communications took the form of an email, the email was sent from either of two...

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    • Singapore
    • District Court (Singapore)
    • 13 April 2020
    ...for the Totality Principle, the midpoint of the maximum prescribed sentence might be a useful proxy: Ye Lin Myint v Public Prosecutor [2019] SGHC 221 at [94]. We turn next to the Escalation principle. Escalation Principle The Escalation principle is no more than a reformulation of the longs......
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