Robbery 'a serious offence even if no weapons used'

A police cordon outside the Standard Chartered bank branch in Holland Village on June 7, 2016.
A police cordon outside the Standard Chartered bank branch in Holland Village on June 7, 2016.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

Even if he did not show or use a weapon, the Holland Village bank robber could still face serious charges that attract a severe punishment under the Penal Code, criminal lawyers here say.

They note that a robbery is a serious offence in Singapore, even if no weapons were used.

What remains crucial are the elements of threat and fear, which they say were both present when a man robbed $30,000 from a Standard Chartered Bank branch in Holland Village on Thursday.

The suspect, who is still at large and believed to be a Caucasian man, had passed a slip of paper to the female teller with his demands and she complied. No weapons were seen during the robbery, which lasted minutes.

"Even if he did not show a gun or knife, it must have been something that he said or wrote on the note that instilled enough fear in the teller for her to hand over the money," said criminal lawyer Shashi Nathan.

"This would be an extortion, even if there was no one hurt," he said, adding that the suspect would face up to 10 years' jail and at least six strokes of the cane if convicted.

 
 

Agreeing, criminal lawyer Amolat Singh said: "A person would not ordinarily hand over the money unless there was some reasonable form of fear."

Another criminal lawyer, Mr Sunil Sudheesan, believes that a lesser charge of theft is unlikely, as there was interaction between the teller and the suspect.

If the threat had been made using a deadly weapon, such as a knife or gun, the offender would get at least 12 strokes of the cane for armed robbery, Mr Singh said.

For unlawful possession of firearms or offensive weapons, he may also face possible charges under the Arms Offences Act and Corrosive and Explosive Substances and Offensive Weapons Act.

If found guilty of carrying any offensive weapon in public places, he could be jailed for up to three years and caned.

Mr Singh said using a fake weapon to commit a crime would not be treated lightly under the law. "The law does not tolerate fake weapons, because the intention is still to instil fear with violence," he said.

A 22-year-old Kazakhstan national was jailed for 15 months in June 2014 for using criminal force to steal from a Japanese woman in Claymore Hill.

Using a toy gun, he threatened to kill her if she did not give him her money.

Unlike a case of snatch theft, robberies are more severe as they involve "more planning and premeditation, with an approach to rob an institution", Mr Nathan said.

In December 2004, a man armed with a fruit knife walked into a POSB branch in West Coast Drive and made off with $37,000. The suspect remains at large.

Ng Huiwen

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 09, 2016, with the headline 'Robbery 'a serious offence even if no weapons used''. Print Edition | Subscribe