Chief Justice issues guidelines for sentencing young re-offenders

Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon laid out sentencing guidelines for young re-offenders in a written judgment on Oct 26, 2015.
Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon laid out sentencing guidelines for young re-offenders in a written judgment on Oct 26, 2015.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Young offenders, who re-commit crimes while on probation, should not be given a fresh probation sentence, if the cases indicate that the offenders did not learn their lesson.

Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon laid out sentencing guidelines for such cases, in his written judgment on Monday (Oct 26), on the appeal of Toa Payoh rooftop vandal Boaz Koh Wen Jie.

Koh, 18, was sentenced to 30 months probation in June for defacing the rooftop of a Housing Board block in Toa Payoh. His appeal was heard in July, and he was then given a heavier punishment - reformative training.

So now, he has to serve 18 months to three years at the Reformative Training Centre (RTC).

CJ Menon said that, in cases involving recalcitrant young offenders, the court had to weigh several factors before deciding on a fresh sentence for the second offence.

First, it had to consider whether the latest offence is serious and the offender's pattern of offending.

"To put it another way, the question is whether the youthful offender's offending pattern justifies optimism or forebodes an 'escalation' from the offender's previous offences," wrote the CJ.

Second, the Court should also consider whether the youth was genuinely remorseful and whether risk factors that caused the last breach of probation had been addressed.

Third, it had to consider whether there was a need to publicly deter similar offences in the future.

In Koh's case, CJ Menon had said that given the seriousness of the crimes - vandalism, theft and trespass - a term of confinement and deprivation of liberty was warranted so as to send out a stronger message of deterrence.

"The appropriate sentence is ultimately a matter for the sentencing court's discretion, and the court must endeavour to arrive at the appropriate sentence after a consideration of all the circumstances of the case in the light of the particular offender and the particular offence," wrote the CJ.