Young offender gets reformative training - but asks for jail time

Usually, an offender will try anything to stay out of jail.

Not Muhammad Farhan Sazali, 20, who had admitted guilt to joining two others in a slashing incident on June 25 this year.

He pleaded with District Judge Mathew Joseph to put him in jail rather than send him to the Reformative Training Centre (RTC).

The RTC houses young offenders between 14 and 21 years old who have been sentenced by the court to undergo reformative training (RT).

Farhan claimed he had enemies in the RTC and was "adamant" that going to jail was better for him.

ISSUE FOR RELEVANT AUTHORITIES

I readily accept that gang-related problems... have the potential to undermine an institution's efforts at rehabilitation and reform and may even frustrate the institution's aims. At the same time, in my judgment, this is (if at all) an issue for the relevant governmental authorities to look into as it concerns the operating environment of the relevant institution.

DISTRICT JUDGE MATHEW JOSEPH

But the judge was not impressed. "I readily accept that gang-related problems, if they do exist or persist, have the potential to undermine an institution's efforts at rehabilitation and reform and may even frustrate the institution's aims," he said in decision grounds last week.

"At the same time, in my judgment, this is (if at all) an issue for the relevant governmental authorities to look into as it concerns the operating environment of the relevant institution.

"It is certainly not a factor the court can properly take into consideration when deciding on the appropriateness of RT in a given case," he added.

Farhan admitted to two charges of causing grievous hurt in an incident where three teens were slashed by one Muhammad Mazlan Mohd Amin, 22, at the void deck of a Housing Board block in Lorong 5 Toa Payoh. A third charge involving the same incident was taken into consideration.

Farhan provided Mazlan with the knife used by the latter in the slashing incident, while he and a third accused, Mohd Nizam Mohd Nazri, 18, stood about 10m away.

Farhan and Mazlan donned motorcycle helmets during the group violence, which was sparked by a staring incident with one of the victims two days earlier.

The victims were treated at Tan Tock Seng Hospital and were unable to follow their ordinary pursuits for 20 days, noted the court.

The judge said there was "no compelling reason" to prefer a substantial prison term and possible caning instead of reformative training, as Farhan was under 21 at the time of the offence.

"It was clear that a more structured environment was therefore necessary to advance the twin aims of rehabilitation and deterrence, which is readily available in the form of reformative training," added the judge.

Farhan, who represented himself, is appealing against the sentence.

The court cases against the other two co-accused are continuing.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 01, 2016, with the headline 'Young offender gets reformative training - but asks for jail time'. Print Edition | Subscribe