Teenage blogger Amos Yee to be remanded for 2 weeks at the Institute of Mental Health

Amos Yee arriving at the State Courts on June 2, 2015.
Amos Yee arriving at the State Courts on June 2, 2015.PHOTO: AFP

SINGAPORE - Teenage blogger Amos Yee will be remanded for two weeks at the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) to undergo a psychiatric assessment.

The court heard on Tuesday morning that a report found the 16-year-old physically and mentally fit to undergo reformative training.

A psychiatric assessment by Dr Munidasa Winslow in the report, however, also suggested that Yee may be suffering from autism spectrum disorder.

District Judge Jasvender Kaur then ordered for Yee to be remanded at IMH for two weeks, calling for a report to assess his suitability for a Mandatory Treatment Order (MTO). An MTO requires an offender to undergo psychiatric treatment for up to two years in lieu of imprisonment.

Yee's case is scheduled to be heard again on July 6, when Judge Kaur will consider sentencing options such as MTO and reformative training.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Hay Hung Chun noted that the prosecution had suggested psychiatric assessment for Yee on two previous occasions, including a May 6 bail review.

Most of Tuesday's three-hour session was conducted behind closed doors.

Yee appeared in the dock briefly, shackled and clad in a white prison T-shirt and brown trousers. He seemed wan and unkempt, and did not smile as has been his wont during court appearances.

Defence lawyer Chong Jia Hao said that Yee had told his lawyers he was willing to undergo treatment at IMH if necessary.

Yee's mother, Madam Mary Toh, appeared in court wearing a white T-shirt with a #FreeAmosYee message in support of her son. The shirt's logo was a picture of Yee in a banana-esque submarine, referencing the Beatles' hit Yellow Submarine.

His father Alphonsus Yee told reporters that to his knowledge, Yee had not been previously assessed for autism spectrum disorder.

He said: "There have been a lot of speculations online about this, but nothing in his growing up years suggested this."

Yee was found guilty on May 12 of making remarks intending to hurt the feelings of Christians in a video which criticised Singapore's founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, as well as for uploading an obscene image with the faces of Mr Lee and former British premier Margaret Thatcher superimposed on it.

He had been remanded for three weeks since June 2 after Judge Kaur called for a report to assess if he was suitable for reformative training.

The prosecution had called for Yee to be sent for reformative training, as he had not cooperated with his assigned probation officer.

The defence, however, argued this was a disproportionate punishment for Yee's offence.

On Monday, the United Nations Human Rights Office for South-east Asia called for Yee's immediate release.

In a statement, the Bangkok-based Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) urged the Singapore Government to review his conviction. It also asked that prosecutors drop their demand that Yee be sentenced to a stint at the Reformative Training Centre (RTC).

Reformative training is a rehabilitative sentencing option for young offenders aged under 21 who are found to be unsuitable for probation.

A stint at RTC lasts between 18 and 30 months, and includes structured rehabilitation programmes, foot drills, and counselling. Offenders will not have contact with adult prison inmates, but will have a criminal record.

Although Yee has been in remand for three weeks without access to any telecommunications devices, his Facebook page has been constantly updated since last Thursday.

The posts, the origins of which remain unclear, centre largely around his grievances towards life in Changi Prison, such as the lack of sunshine or privacy in his cell.

oliviaho@sph.com.sg