Appeal turns spotlight on corrective training

A serial offender withdrew a High Court appeal against his five-year corrective training sentence - but could now see it slashed to just 14 months in jail following an appeal by the Public Prosecutor.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Lau Wing Yam told the court last week that while the technical requirements for the sentence of corrective training were satisfied in the case of Tan Yew Hock, the offences for which he was convicted may not be serious enough to trigger such a serious punishment.

The 44-year-old pleaded guilty last year to two charges of stealing a pair of earrings from a Hougang Mall shop and causing hurt to a 26-year-old male nurse. An additional charge of spitting at the nurse was considered.

However, Tan had a criminal record that went into a "not insignificant 10 pages", noted District Judge Matthew Joseph, who had sentenced him to five years of corrective training last year.

In 1990, Tan was given reformative training for robbery. A string of other offences including drug consumption followed in the next 25 years, and DPP Terence Szetoh, at last year's State Court hearing, urged the court to consider a pre-sentence report on his suitability for corrective training.

It noted among other things that Tan's stay in the community between offences was usually less than a year and he lacked close family support.

Tan, who was unrepresented at the State Court hearing, filed an appeal but wrote to the Supreme Court in February to withdraw it. However the prosecution concurrently reviewed Tan's case and found his offences were not serious enough to warrant his punishment. The prosecution argued before Judge of Appeal Chao Hick Tin last week for a substantial jail term, given Tan's extensive antecedents, instead of the longer period of corrective training.

The appeal judge called for an adjournment, pending the outcome of two upcoming magistrates' appeals before the Court of Three Judges relating to issues of corrective training.

He said he was aware of the period of jail time served by Tan by the time a decision would be reached in the present appeal.

An Attorney-General's Chambers spokesman said: "The Public Prosecutor... has no interest in securing excessive sentences when the facts do not warrant such sentences. This is a crucial aspect of the Public Prosecutor's role in protecting the public interest - to secure a fair, proportionate sentence that is neither manifestly inadequate nor manifestly excessive."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 02, 2016, with the headline 'Appeal turns spotlight on corrective training'. Print Edition | Subscribe