Gaming addict loses appeal against AWOL sentence

A full-time national serviceman went absent without official leave (AWOL) eight times over the past four years because he was addicted to computer games.

On Friday, William Win's appeal against a sentence of 18 months' detention for his latest absence was dismissed by a five-man Military Court of Appeal.

Win, 22, enlisted in June 2009 and was posted to a combat unit.

Even though he has been an NSF for four years, he still has about five months left to serve from his two-year NS liability.

Since his enlistment, he has chalked up eight military court martial convictions, with sentences totalling 46 months' detention.

Each conviction was for the same reason - he went AWOL and spent his time gaming in Internet cafes continuously for days. The previous seven times, he surrendered himself after his family advised him to do so.

For his most recent offence, he was absent for about a month and was arrested by the police who found out during a spot check that he was wanted.

On Friday, lawyer Rey Foo argued that his client's repeated AWOL actions were not those of a typical recalcitrant offender, but were due to a mental condition.

Win has been diagnosed as suffering from pathological gaming, an impulse control disorder, and he could not control himself despite knowing the consequences of going AWOL.

His gaming addiction arose when, as a primary school pupil, he ran away from home to avoid his quarrelling parents and spent his time at Internet cafes.

While serving his previous sentence in May last year, he was referred to the Institute of Mental Health's Addiction Medicine Department for treatment.

Win's numerous convictions, argued Mr Foo, suggest that, given his mental condition, a long detention period would not serve as a deterrent.

The lawyer argued that it was more efficient to let Win finish serving his NS liability as quickly as possible in a posting where he can receive psychiatric treatment.