Persistent offender fined $1,000 for early morning drinks

Tan pleaded guilty to consuming liquor in public during the prohibited hours of between 10.30pm and 7am.
Tan pleaded guilty to consuming liquor in public during the prohibited hours of between 10.30pm and 7am.ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

Case among first prosecutions under new liquor control law

Tan Gak Hin was on his way home close to midnight when he saw some friends drinking beer on a bench near his HDB block. He could not resist joining them.

Tan, 52, who had repeatedly been caught drinking in public during restricted hours, was given the maximum $1,000 fine yesterday.

He had already been warned by the police once and made to pay a composition fine on another occasion.

He claimed he was troubled and frustrated when he joined his friends for a drink that night. But when the group got too rowdy, someone called the police.

Tan pleaded guilty to consuming liquor in public during prohibited hours (between 10.30pm and 7am). His friends got off with a warning from the police as it was the first time they had been caught doing so.

The case is among the first prosecutions under the Liquor Control (Supply and Consumption) Act passed in Parliament in January last year. The Bill came into effect on April 1 last year.

A CALIBRATED APPROACH

The police will take a calibrated and even-handed approach in enforcing the law. If a person is found consuming liquor in public places, the police will take down his particulars in the first instance and require him to dispose of the liquor.

If there is public annoyance, the police can also advise the person to move on and leave the place. If he complies, no further action will be taken.

If the person ignores the police's advice, or is a recalcitrant offender, the police may consider taking stiffer actions such as issuing him with a composition fine or arresting him.

THE MINISTRY OF HOME AFFAIRS, in a statement on March 31 last year, a day before the new liquor law took effect.

On Jan 21, Malaysian Siow Hui Lin, 28, was also prosecuted under the new law. She allegedly consumed beer at a hawker centre at about 1.25am on May 6 last year. Her case, which includes charges of behaving in a disorderly manner and assaulting a policeman, is pending trial.

A district court heard that at about 11pm on Feb 22, Tan, whose occupation is not known, met four friends near Block 279, Bishan Street 24 - a five-minute walk from his home.

At about 2.25am the next day, someone from the next block called the police to say that there had been shouting in the area for the past half an hour. Policemen found Tan and his friends drinking beer and reeking of alcohol.

"The (officer) then notified them of the infringement under (the) Liquor Control Act and advised them to dispose of the remaining cans of beer (and) they acknowledged and complied with the directions," a police prosecutor told the court.

In mitigation, Tan, who did not have a lawyer, told District Judge Ronald Gwee via a Mandarin interpreter: "It was the 15th day of the Chinese New Year. I was on my way home and saw my friends. They told me to join them and I did so.

"I was very frustrated with my family (and) I have financial problems, so I joined them for a drink."

The maximum penalty for consuming liquor in a public place during a prescribed no-public-drinking period is a $1,000 fine on a first conviction. Repeat offenders face a maximum punishment of a $2,000 fine and three months' jail.

Online, Tan's sentence drew a mixed response, with some toasting the new law and others calling the fine excessive.

The Bill had also elicited strong views - both from the public as well as parliamentarians - when it was debated in the House.

In a statement issued a day before the law took effect, the Ministry of Home Affairs said: "The police will take a calibrated and even-handed approach in enforcing the law. If a person is found consuming liquor in public places, the police will take down his particulars in the first instance and require him to dispose of the liquor.

"If there is public annoyance, the police can also advise the person to move on and leave the place. If he complies, no further action will be taken.

"If the person ignores the police's advice, or is a recalcitrant offender, the police may consider taking stiffer actions such as issuing him with a composition fine or arresting him."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 06, 2016, with the headline 'Persistent offender fined $1,000 for early morning drinks'. Print Edition | Subscribe