Amos Yee back in court over offensive videos

Yee indicated that he wanted to plead guilty just before the first witness was called. His case for Criminal Case Resolution is fixed for today.
Yee indicated that he wanted to plead guilty just before the first witness was called. His case for Criminal Case Resolution is fixed for today.

Blogger, who at first wanted to contest eight charges, opts to undergo Criminal Case Resolution instead

Teenage blogger Amos Yee was back in court yesterday to face six charges of intending to wound the feelings of Muslims or Christians and two of failing to report to the Jurong Police Division for investigations.

Yee, 17, who does not have a lawyer, confirmed that he was contesting all eight charges - all of which relate to crimes allegedly committed between November last year and May this year.

He is said to have posted five offensive videos, some of which show him insulting the Bible and Quran.

Yee also said he wanted to cross- examine the prosecution's witnesses. But shortly after entering his plea, and before the first witness was called, he told District Judge Lim Tse Haw that he wanted "to take a certain course", legal parlance indicating that an accused person wishes to plead guilty.

Yee, who has had five pre-trial conferences with the prosecution since he was charged in May, said he recently found out about the Criminal Case Resolution (CCR) process. The CCR provides a neutral forum, facilitated by a senior judge, for parties to consider early resolution of criminal cases.

It aims to save resources by reducing the chances of an accused person pleading guilty on the day of the trial or once it has started.

Judge Lim fixed the case for a CCR to be held today.

Yee, dressed in an orange T-shirt and a pair of beige cargo trousers, was in court with his mother, Ms Mary Toh.

The prosecution had prepared seven witnesses, all police officers, to testify. On May 26, the day he was charged, Yee told District Judge Ronald Gwee he intended to claim trial.

Reports had been lodged over online remarks he made last year and the police issued a notice in December ordering Yee to report for investigations.

But he allegedly failed to do so. He left the country shortly after and remained overseas until April.

When he returned, he was served with a Magistrate's order to report again at Jurong Police Division, but he purportedly did not comply.

On May 11, he was arrested and then bailed out of police custody by his mother.

The maximum punishment for deliberately wounding the religious feelings of any person is three years' jail and a fine; For failing to present oneself pursuant to a notice or order from a public servant, it is one month's jail and a $1,500 fine.

Yee first came to the attention of the authorities when he uploaded an expletive-laden video on March 27 last year, four days after the death of founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew. Yee later also posted an obscene image on his blog.

He was convicted on May 12 last year and sentenced on July 6 to four weeks' jail. He was released the same day as the punishment was backdated to include his time in remand. He had spent about 50 days in prison after repeatedly breaching bail conditions.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 18, 2016, with the headline 'Amos Yee back in court over offensive videos'. Print Edition | Subscribe