SINGAPORE - A deaf teenager who cannot speak was placed on 24 months' probation on Wednesday for stealing three buses for joyrides.
During that period, Muhammad Salahuddin Omar, 17, will not be able to apply for any driving licence. He will also have to wear a hearing aid.
Community Court judge Mathew Joseph felt that the teenager's speech and hearing impediment had some bearing on the offences he had committed.
He asked the probation officer for a holistic assessment of the underlying cause of the youngster's misbehaviour and to see how his talent could be harnessed.
He noted that Salahuddin has a fascination for buses.
Probation officer Siti Aisha Khan Surattee told the court that Salahuddin had expressed a desire to take engineering and electrical courses, such as on the maintenance of rail systems, once he completed his N levels.
Judge Joseph quipped: "That will be something useful given the breakdowns we have these days... the disruptions to our rail system.''
He told Salahuddin : "The court recognises your talent in this area but you need to harness it wisely and lawfully, and not steal buses and go for joy rides.''
Asked if he was prepared to pursue his studies in this area, Salahuddin indicated through a sign language interpreter that he was.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Zhou Yihong said the prosecution was very heartened with the very comprehensive probation programme. She said the prosecution felt that Salahuddin had shown a blatant disregard for the law.
He had stolen a bus worth $200,000 from Woodlands Industrial Park E8 and driven it when he was below 18 and without insurance on March 8 this year.
He had driven for 45 minutes along Ayer Rajah Expressway and in Jurong before he was stopped in Bukit Batok by the bus owner's operations executive.
Under the probation order, he has to remain indoors from 10 pm to 5.30am, be electronically tagged for six months, and perform 130 hours of community service.
His parents signed a bond of $5,000 to ensure his good behaviour.
Seven other charges were considered during his sentencing.
His progress will be reviewed on Oct 6.
The maximum penalty for vehicle theft is seven years' jail, fine and disqualification.