AGC asks police to probe netizens over comments linking race to sentencing

The accused in the case involving the murder of Mr Satheesh Noel Gobidass being taken to court in July last year. The Attorney-General's Chambers said it is not true that members of minority races are given harsher sentences.
The AGC said the sentences imposed were in line with guidelines issued by the courts.ST FILE PHOTO

The Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) has asked the police to investigate social media users who have alleged that accused persons in the Orchard Towers murder were given preferential treatment in sentencing on account of their race.

In a statement yesterday, the AGC refuted claims that the courts impose sentences based on the race of offenders and that members of minority races are given harsher sentences. It said that it will not hesitate to take action against those who make such false and baseless allegations.

Such allegations, the AGC said, have the "potential to disrupt racial harmony in Singapore and cause irreversible divisions in our communities".

The AGC added that it has asked the police to investigate those responsible for alleging in several social media posts that those accused of being involved in the death of Mr Satheesh Noel Gobidass last year were given preferential treatment.

It added that the comments could also fall foul of the law on contempt of court.

On July 2 last year, Mr Satheesh, 31, died after being involved in a brawl at Orchard Towers.

Seven people were involved in the incident.

After thorough investigations, the AGC found that six of them were not involved in causing Mr Satheesh's death, leading to the charges against them being reduced.

The seventh person, Tan Sen Yang, is the only one now facing a murder charge.

In the statement, the AGC said: "At no point did the police and AGC take the race of the deceased and the seven individuals into consideration in its decision."

On Thursday, one of the accused, Mr Chan Jia Xing, 27, was given a 12-month conditional warning after facing a lesser charge of consorting with a person carrying an offensive weapon in a public place.

The AGC said the crime he was charged with took into account Mr Chan's involvement, how he tried to stop the attack and his cooperation with police investigations.

He could return to court if he re-offends within a 12-month period.

A conditional warning does not amount to a conviction or a finding of guilt - meaning that Mr Chan will face no further action if he does not commit any crimes for a year.

Earlier this year, Joel Tan Yun Sheng, 26, Ang Da Yuan, 26, and Natalie Siow Yu Zhen, 24, pleaded guilty to assault charges, among other things.

Joel Tan was sentenced to one month's imprisonment, while Ang was sentenced to eight months' imprisonment and six strokes of the cane. Siow was given five months' jail last Friday in addition to the 31/2 months she had spent in remand.

The AGC said the sentences imposed were in line with guidelines issued by the courts.

Three of the accused - Tan Sen Yang, 28, Tan Hong Sheng, 23, and Loo Boon Chong, 26 - have not been sentenced yet.

All seven involved in the case had gone as a group to the Naughty Girl Club on the second floor of Orchard Towers in the wee hours of July 2 last year.

They were about to leave at about 6.20am when they ran into another group, and a dispute ensued.

Mr Satheesh was killed after he confronted one of the men who, along with the man's friends, attacked him.

The brawl was captured by cameras outside a shop on the first floor of Orchard Towers.

Closed-circuit television footage showed Mr Satheesh exchanging blows with some people before stumbling to the ground.

He appeared to be bleeding from the neck, while bystanders tried to help him.

Mr Satheesh was taken to Tan Tock Seng Hospital and died at 7.25am.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 17, 2020, with the headline 'AGC asks police to probe netizens over comments linking race to sentencing'. Print Edition | Subscribe