Amos Yee found guilty of both charges, sentencing on June 2 pending probation report

Teenage blogger Amos Yee was found guilty on May 12, 2015, of uploading an obscene image and making remarks intending to hurt the feelings of Christians. -- FILE PHOTO: JONATHAN CHOO
Teenage blogger Amos Yee was found guilty on May 12, 2015, of uploading an obscene image and making remarks intending to hurt the feelings of Christians. -- FILE PHOTO: JONATHAN CHOO

SINGAPORE - Teenage blogger Amos Yee Pang Sang was found guilty of uploading an obscene image and making remarks intending to hurt the feelings of Christians on Tuesday, after a two-day trial last week.

The prosecution has called for a probation report. The 16-year-old needs counselling and probation, said the prosecution.

The court, on the prosecution's request, acquitted him of a third charge which relates to the Protection from Harassment Act. It accuses him of making an online video containing offensive remarks about the late founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew.

Sentencing will be on June 2, pending the outcome of the probation report.

The prosecution also agreed to reduce the bail sum to $10,000, with no conditions attached. The previous bail amount was $30,000 and as part of his bail terms, Yee was not allowed to post anything online.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Hay Hung Chun said: "His actions show him to be a misguided young man who sought to gain attention for himself by deliberately posting obscene material to shock and deliberately posting material he admits he knew would cause ill will among Christians.

"His actions are far from being 'noble' or imbued with good intentions. It was a calculated course of conduct undertaken for the sake of publicity and without regard to the damaging effects on the community."

However, taking into account Yee's age and profile, "it is clear that neither a sentence of a fine nor a term of imprisonment would be suitable in the circumstances", said DPP Hay. "What he urgently needs is counselling and appropriate probation."

Yee's lawyer Alfred Dodwell, however, said he has been "extremely cooperative" with the police and argued for a fine for both charges. He also noted that Yee has spent 18 days in remand. 

The lawyer initially told the judge that Yee does not want probation. But the teenager later agreed to a probation report after the judge met his mother, lawyers and the prosecution in chambers.

When asked by reporters why the prosecution wanted a probation, DPP Hay said: "At 16, 17 years old, I don't think one should be holding the odium of a conviction."

A probation sentence, which is given to youth offenders, will not see them with a conviction record, he noted. He said the focus should be on Yee's "reintegration into society for his good and benefit".

On why bail was lowered to $10,000, when the courts usually increase bail upon an accused's conviction, he said: "It is not in our interest to keep him in remand."

On Tuesday, the courtroom was filled with onlookers, some turning up as early as 8am to queue up for a seat.

Yee pleaded not guilty last week to the charges of purportedly transmitting an image electronically showing obscene figures, and allegedly attacking Christianity with the deliberate intention of wounding the religious feelings of Christians.

Earlier on Tuesday, judge Jasvender Kaur said standards of obscenity will change from time to time, and differ among countries. It was up to the courts to decide based on community standards.

In considering whether the image Yee uploaded was obscene, she considered the effect of the image on teenagers who were the likely viewers of Yee's blog - whether parents would approve of their teenage daughter or son viewing it, or if teachers would approve of their students viewing it.

It would meet the "strongest possible disapproval and condemnation", said the judge.

On the second charge of making remarks intending to hurt the feelings of Christians, she said Yee's remarks were "clearly derogatory and offensive to Christians".

Yee's parents arrived separately. His mother brought a folder of what appeared to be Yee's baby photos and drawings by him, and showed them to supporters before the verdict was delivered.

The blogger was charged in court on March 31, four days after uploading a video criticising the late Mr Lee who died just over a week before.

A day after he put up the video, he uploaded an image illustrating two people having sex, on which he superimposed the faces of Mr Lee and former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher.

The teenager has been remanded in Changi Prison since April 30, as he did not want to comply with conditions attached to his $30,000 bail that prevent him from posting anything online.

At a bail review hearing last Wednesday, a day before his trial, Yee's lawyer Mr Dodwell said these conditions amounted to a gag order and infringed on his client's constitutional right to freedom of speech.