Animal welfare advocate fined after wrongly accusing woman of knocking into dog while driving

Mark Lin Youcheng, co-founder of Society for Animal Matters, was fined $1,400 for harassment. ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

SINGAPORE - Feeling "aggrieved and emotional" after a shelter dog was struck by a car in a hit-and-run accident, a man posted an online comment wrongly accusing one "Soon Kim Choo" of being the driver of the car that day.

As a result, Ms Soon, a 41-year-old property agent representing Huttons Asia, received various harassment calls and text messages from unknown persons. Several people also hounded Huttons, leaving criticism and poor ratings on its Facebook page.

But it turned out to be a case of mistaken identity. Ms Soon, the owner of the car, was not behind the wheel when the accident occurred on Oct 23, 2016.

For his actions, co-founder and director of animal welfare group Society for Animal Matters Mark Lin Youcheng, 27, was fined $1,400 on Tuesday (Jan 7) after pleading guilty to a harassment charge. A second harassment charge was considered during sentencing.

At around 10.30am on the day of the accident, a dog named Sayang slipped out of an open gate at a shelter run by the Animal Lovers League in Pasir Ris Farmway as volunteers were preparing to take the dogs out for their weekly walk.

While on the road, the dog was struck by a car driven by Ms Alice Chong Say Kiaw, 52.

Court documents did not reveal how the two women are related to each other or if any action has been taken against Ms Chong.

Lin learnt of the incident after reading about it on a Facebook post, said Deputy Public Prosecutor Kelvin Chong.

The freelance dog trainer then decided to respond to a post by one "Lixin Tan" at around 8.30pm on Oct 24, 2016, the court heard.

The DPP said: "The accused posted one comment with the text 'identity found' and a screenshot containing the NRIC number, name, address, vehicle number, and vehicle model of one 'Soon Kim Choo'. The screenshot had been forwarded to him by someone that day."

At 3.40am the next day, the DPP said, Lin posted a second comment with the text "Give her hell".

Lin also went on Huttons Asia's Facebook page and wrote: "Please manage your atrocious and cruel employee or the public will."

Ms Soon made a police report on Oct 25, 2016, and Ms Chong also alerted the authorities.

Defence lawyer Joel Ng told the court on Tuesday that Ms Soon later made a civil claim for defamation and the matter was settled out of court with Lin forking out $12,500 as compensation.

In February last year, Lin also posted an apology on his Facebook page stating: "I should not have made those statements without accurately verifying if she was at the wheel at the time. I will leave the investigation of the incident to the regulatory authorities.

"I apologise for my actions and for the hurt and loss suffered by Ms Soon Kim Choo."

In an earlier report, ST stated that Sayang was not eating shortly after the accident. Court documents did not state his condition.

For harassment, Lin could have been fined up to $5,000.

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