Last teen in Toa Payoh vandalism case gets probation, prosecution appealing

SINGAPORE - A teenager who vandalised the rooftop of a Toa Payoh block received another shot at rehabilitation on Monday when he was given 30 months' probation.

Boaz Koh Wen Jie, 18, said to be the most culpable among the five teens involved in the case, had pleaded guilty to five charges of vandalism, theft and criminal trespass and had six others taken into consideration.

The prosecution is appealing against the sentence. It wants the teen to be sent to reformative training instead as he had committed the offences while already on probation for theft and trespass.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Tang Shangjun said last week that probation would have limited effect on curbing Koh's mindset towards committing crime. He said probation was not suitable in this case, especially as a serious offence like vandalism had been committed.

Koh is the last of the five accused to be dealt with. The others - Reagan Tan Chang Zhi, Chay Nam Shen, Goh Rong Liang and David William Graaskov, all 18 - have been given probation.

The five were passing the time near Block 85A Lorong 4 Toa Payoh on May 6 last year when they stole four cans of spray paint worth $12 from a lorry parked on nearby Lorong 5.

The group decided to go to the rooftop of Block 85A to spray graffiti. Graaskov, however, left to catch the last bus home at close to midnight.

The remaining four went to the roof, and waited for about 10 minutes. Koh stepped out onto the ledge and sprayed the graffiti on the wall, and the others joined in. Koh even sprayed over the same phrase - an expletive directed against the People's Action Party - as he felt that it was not "dark enough".

After that, they took the lift down, and Koh threw the spray cans down a rubbish chute.

The cost for repainting the vandalised walls was $129.

Further investigations showed the teens were also involved in trespassing at Marina Bay Suites on March 29 last year, and the worksite at Jalan Rajah sometime between October and December 2013.

District Judge Lim Keng Yeow noted that a probation officer's progress report stated that Koh had made "significant changes in his lifestyle" since his release from custody in May last year. The youth committed himself to regular voluntary community service, sought out counselling, and was reported to have progressed well.

"Indeed, this is an exceptional case in terms of the clear indications of remorse, commitment to making amends, level of insight into personal rehabilitate needs, and determination to reform," he said.

The judge made a fresh probation order for 30 months; ordered Koh to observe a curfew, do 240 hours of community service, and undergo residential supervision at The Hiding Place, a half-way house, for 21 months followed by e-tagging for four months or until his enlistment for national service, whichever is earlier.

Judge Lim said the court would not hesitate to revoke the order in favour of reformative training if there was any indication that Koh is actually not worthy of probation and if his progress does not meet expectations.