Sentence cut for man who fired airsoft pistol at passers-by

A personal banker who fired an airsoft pistol at passers-by from his second-storey Clementi flat has had his sentence cut to one week's detention and 150 hours of community service on appeal.

Ernest Sim, 27, shot Ms Bian Xin, 29, in the chest with a white ball-shaped pellet from his flat at Block 101, Clementi Street 14 on Jan 26 last year.

Sim admitted causing hurt, possessing an airsoft pistol and importing an airsoft pistol in December 2013 without a licence.

ISSUE OF HURT CAUSED

Without further reference to the requirement that hurt has to be caused... even a 'Nerf' gun (a toy gun firing soft foam darts), a Laser Tag gun (which discharges no projectile whatsoever) or a toddler's water pistol is a dangerous weapon.

JUSTICE SEE KEE OON, in reducing Ernest Sim's sentence.

Five other charges were also taken into consideration, which included separate incidents involving two other victims.

He was jailed for seven weeks and fined $12,000 by a district court in August last year.

The High Court's move to cut his sentence followed a post-sentence test by the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) which was "inconclusive" as to the degree of danger posed by the arms in question.

Justice See Kee Oon allowed the appeal on the further ground that there was nothing in the statement of facts which suggested the victim had suffered any "bodily pain" or injury.

"It is not enough that hurt could potentially be caused if there is no evidence of actual hurt caused," he said in judgment grounds released yesterday.

Sim had brought the guns into Singapore from Thailand, first using them to shoot at trees and inanimate objects.

But this escalated when he began shooting at people from his second-storey flat, taking aim as they walked along the public areas below. In January last year alone, he shot at three unsuspecting persons on four occasions.

When he appealed against his sentence, Deputy Public Prosecutor Prem Raj Prabakaran pressed for a one-week jail term in the wake of the HSA finding.

Justice See commended the prosecution for the "candour and even-handedness" in disclosing the HSA test results although it was adverse to the prosecution's case.

Both parties agreed to reduce the charge to a lesser offence as the statement of facts did not show that hurt had been caused to the victim.

"Without further reference to the requirement that hurt has to be caused... even a 'Nerf' gun (a toy gun firing soft foam darts), a Laser Tag gun (which discharges no projectile whatsoever) or a toddler's water pistol is a dangerous weapon," said Justice See.

He expressed doubt if the victim was actually hurt or was "merely annoyed or irritated".

Sim's lawyers Shashi Nathan and Tania Chin pointed out in mitigation that he had expressed remorse, compensated the victims and had no previous convictions.

Justice See said Sim was "very fortunate" no serious injuries were caused from the airsoft guns which could hurt if fired into a person's eye, for instance.

He made it clear Sim's conduct was "clearly anti-social and harmful to the community" but the hurt in this case was "transient at best".

He convicted Sim on the reduced charge and sentenced him to a week's detention and 150 hours of community service. The $12,000 fine and compensation paid in relation to the other two charges were ordered to stand.


Correction note: In an earlier version of the story, it was stated the judgment grounds was issued by Justice Chan Seng Onn. This is incorrect. The judgment was issued by Judicial Commissioner See Kee Oon. We are sorry for the error.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 01, 2016, with the headline 'Sentence cut for man who fired airsoft pistol at passers-by'. Print Edition | Subscribe