Man gets 10 years' preventive detention for violent offences including punching deaf-mute woman

SINGAPORE - Upset that he had been placed in a padded cell after being arrested, a man with a violent disposition tore up the floor lining and smeared his faeces on the walls.

It was the same story three weeks later at another cell in the Institute of Mental Health (IMH), where Low Ser Lai had subsequently been remanded for psychiatric assessment. He damaged the fan there, stained the walls with his excrement and even assaulted four security guards that came to check on him.

One of them needed stitches for a head wound and three days of medical leave.

On Friday, Low, who has a history of violence-related convictions dating back to 1977, was sentenced to 10 years' preventive detention - a penalty reserved for recalcitrant offenders.

The former part-time cleaner, 57, admitted to committing 17 offences this year, the first of which came in January shortly after his release from a 10-year corrective training stint. Besides hurting the IMH guards, Low's crimes, carried out on six different occasions, also included disorderly behaviour and the use of criminal force against police officers.

The court heard Low wound up in the first cell on Aug 12 after he caused a scene outside Hong Wen Primary School, where he was then working. On Aug 12, he tried but was prevented by the security guard from giving sweets to arriving students. Low stood on the road to block traffic in retaliation, and refused to cooperate with the police officers that were called in.

He was put in the cell in Police Cantonment Complex in the afternoon, and caused damage that later cost $2,850 to repair.

On Sept 3, he caused another $646 in damage to the IMH cell. When the four guards arrived, Low was naked, and behaving aggressively. He swung a plastic shard at them and injured them.

On a separate occasion on June 11, Low repeatedly punched a woman who accused him of earlier molesting her. The 53-year-old woman, who is deaf and mute, had confronted Low with her brother-in-law at a HDB void deck in Bendemeer Road.

It is understood the IMH assessment found that Low does not suffer from any major mental illness.

Most recently, he served 15 years' corrective training for convictions in 1997 and 2003, and received three strokes of the cane.

Preventive detention can involve between seven and 20 years in prison. The maximum penalty for voluntarily causing hurt is a jail term of two years and a $5,000 fine.