16 weeks' jail for woman who failed to wear mask repeatedly

54-year-old retired naval officer failed to wear a mask even when out on bail

A woman who failed to wear a mask in public places - including the Marina Bay Sands (MBS) integrated resort - on numerous occasions was sentenced to 16 weeks in jail yesterday.

Phoon Chiu Yoke, 54, appeared in court via video link and admitted to six charges under the Covid-19 (Temporary Measures) Act. She also pleaded guilty to three charges under the Infectious Diseases Act.

Thirteen other similar charges were also considered during sentencing.

The prosecution had asked the judge to sentence Phoon to between 17 and 22 weeks in jail, stressing that she was a recalcitrant offender.

Her lawyer, Mr Amos Cai from Yuen Law, pleaded for his client to be given a fine, and said that she had never contracted Covid-19.

He also said that Phoon had an "exemplary 12-year naval career" and had "championed gender equality in the military".

The court heard yesterday that safe distancing ambassadors (SDAs) first saw that Phoon had failed to wear a mask at the Newton hawker centre at around 7.20pm on May 8 last year.

When approached, Phoon ignored the SDAs and instead used a scarf to cover her nose.

Ten days later, she received a notice of composition for $300 via registered post for failing to don a mask at the hawker centre. She failed to pay the $300 and was later charged in court over the offence.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Heershan Kaur told District Judge Brenda Tan that Phoon left Singapore for Britain in mid-May last year.

She returned to Singapore on June 28 last year and was told to serve a 14-day stay-home notice (SHN) until July 12.

Phoon went to MBS to serve her SHN in a room on the 29th storey and was given a key card that was for one-time entry only.

But at about 8.05pm on June 28, she left her room without wearing a mask and went to a lift lobby, claiming that she wanted to view the night scene of the city.

An in-house security officer spotted Phoon outside her room. She was escorted back to the room at about 8.15pm.

She repeatedly left her room in the following days.

After serving her SHN, Phoon was stopped from entering Clarke Quay Central shopping mall on Dec 2 last year at around 11.30am, as she was not wearing a mask.

Phoon stormed off after she was told that the police would be alerted, and returned soon after with a mask on.

However, she pulled it down when she was at the atrium of the mall, and was later escorted out.

On March 28 this year, an unmasked Phoon was stopped at the entrance of St Andrew's Cathedral. The cathedral's staff reminded her to put a mask on, but she did not comply.

After the service, Phoon was approached by a service coordinator who cautioned her against not wearing a mask. She ignored him and left the worship hall.

She refused to wear a mask even after the church's vicar advised her to cooperate, the court heard.

She was later captured on video not wearing a mask at MBS on May 15. The clip, which was widely shared, showed her telling SDAs: "Who are you? Who are you representing? Where is your badge? Show me your badge."

Phoon finally left MBS without wearing a mask.

She was hauled to court later that month and was handed five charges under the Covid-19 (Temporary Measures) Act.

After the proceedings, Phoon walked out of the State Courts building, deliberately removed her mask in front of members of the media and smiled.

On June 25, Phoon was out on bail when she again failed to wear a mask, this time at the Mandarin Orchard Singapore hotel. A security officer alerted the police about her antics.

A month later, she was charged over this incident.

Her bail of $12,000 was revoked, and she was taken into custody.

Yesterday, Deputy Public Prosecutor Jane Lim urged District Judge Tan to sentence Phoon to between 17 and 22 weeks in jail, stressing that she was a recalcitrant offender.

Pleading for a fine, Mr Cai said that Phoon had joined the Republic of Singapore Navy in 1990 and was "one of the pioneer female naval commanding officers".

He said the Singaporean completed her command before retiring with the rank of major in 2002.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 07, 2021, with the headline '16 weeks' jail for woman who failed to wear mask repeatedly'. Subscribe