SINGAPORE - A 39-year old Chinese national was fined the maximum $1,000 on Friday (June 9) after pleading guilty to one count of causing annoyance to the public.
Construction worker Wang Jianpo, who has been working in Singapore for at least five years, left a blue luggage unattended at the far end of the train platform at Hougang MRT station at around 2.10pm on April 2, causing a security alert.
The court heard Mr Wang had collected the luggage from a friend at Buangkok Crescent earlier that day before going to Hougang MRT station with it.
He decided to leave it behind and took a train to Chinatown to run some errands.
Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Daphne Lim said a couple spotted the luggage at about 2.25pm and alerted staff members at the station control centre.
The station manager then reported the matter to the operations control centre of the North-East Line which decided to evacuate Hougang MRT station and close it for security reasons. All trains were also ordered to bypass it and the police were notified.
Police officers that arrived cordoned off the area around the luggage and they opened it once they ascertained that it was safe to do so. It was found to contain household items.
The station was closed for about 85 minutes before it reopened at around 4pm
DPP Lim said: "In total, 36 trains were made to bypass Hougang MRT station, 29 free passing bus services were deployed, about 663 commuters were evacuated and about 3,521 commuters were affected.
"Fifteen SBS personnel and 71 police officers were also deployed to manage the situation."
Police reviewed closed-circuit television footage of the area and identified Mr Wang as the person who had left the luggage behind.
After completing his errands, he took a train back to Hougang MRT station to retrieve it and officers arrested him when he reached his destination.
Urging the court to give him the maximum fine, DPP Lim said: "This case constitutes one of the most serious instances of the offence of public nuisance.
"In this current heightened security climate, there is a need for this court to send a message that such acts involving the intentional leaving of one's personal items unattended at public places would be visited with appropriately severe sanctions."
Mr Wang was represented by lawyers Ng Shi Yang and Ariel Lim from the Criminal Legal Aid Scheme Fellowship.
Mr Ng asked District Judge Kan Shuk Weng to fine his client $700, saying that he was not a prankster or troublemaker.
He added: "He was instead an ignorant fool. He had a simplistic approach to getting around his personal inconvenience, and a general ignorance of current affairs made him unaware of the recently heightened security climate in Singapore."
Mr Ng also highlighted that besides the incident at Hougang MRT station, there have been three other similar cases between April and June this year.
For instance, a 34-year-old man was arrested on Wednesday for public nuisance after leaving a luggage bag unattended at Admiralty MRT Station.
The police were alerted to the unattended bag at the bicycle bay of the station at 8.45am. It contained personal items like clothing, medication and toiletries.
And in April, officers arrested a 69-year-old man after leaving flour at Woodleigh MRT Station, sparking a security scare that led to the station being closed for about three hours.
Mr Ng urged to court to calibrate sentences which can reflect the differing culpability or ramifications for similar acts.
He added: "Critically, the sentence passed by this court for Mr Wang's case will be the guiding precedent for subsequent cases. It is clear that the Woodleigh MRT case is far more aggravated."
However, Judge Kan said she agreed with the prosecution before handing out the sentence.
Mr Wang, who managed to pay his fine, declined to comment when reporters approached him.