How judge decided on six-year term

In his 22-page grounds of judgment, Principal District Judge Bala Reddy explained in detail how he decided on a jail term of six years for Yang Yin's criminal breach of trust offences.

He took into account aggravating factors submitted by the prosecution, which had asked for 10 to 12 years' jail for Yang.

These include how Yang had betrayed the trust of 89-year-old Madam Chung Khin Chun by capitalising on her age and lack of immediate familial support to foster "an environment of unquestioning trust" with the widow.

The judge said: "Throughout the material time, the accused's actions were the subject of what amounted to absolute trust, free from the scrutiny of the eyes of outsiders."

He also said he gave "little credit" to Yang's plea of guilt. "The trial had gone on for 12 days and it was during the accused's cross-examination that he decided to plead guilty," he wrote.

 
 

Yang first indicated he wanted to plead guilty in July before changing his mind weeks later to claim trial. A month later, he pleaded guilty.

The judge yesterday also raised another point made by the prosecution - that a deterrent sentence is needed to send a clear message that those who misuse funds entrusted to them by the vulnerable will be severely dealt with.

A deterrent sentence, however, need not be "crushing", Judge Reddy said, explaining that 10 to 12 years' imprisonment would be "manifestly excessive".

Even though the accused had virtually depleted the widow's liquid assets of about $2.7 million in early 2010 to less than $10,000 as of Aug 30, 2014, this should be viewed in the right perspective.

This is because Yang had pleaded guilty only to misappropriating $1.1 million from the widow. "This court could only sentence the accused to what he had pleaded guilty," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 01, 2016, with the headline 'How judge decided on six-year term'. Print Edition | Subscribe