SINGAPORE - A 69-year-old man who used flour to mark a trail for a running route which included Woodleigh MRT station and caused a security scare was given the maximum fine of $1,000 on Wednesday (Nov 29) for public nuisance.
Tay Yong Kwang admitted to causing annoyance to the public by leaving white flour at multiple locations in and around the station in Upper Serangoon Road between noon and 1pm on April 18, 2017.
More than 100 security personnel were deployed to deal with the security scare. The station was closed for more than three hours, affecting more than 1,000 commuters, said Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Tang Shangjun.
He pushed for the maximum fine, saying this was one of the worst cases of public nuisance thus far.
"He left white powder around the public transport facility. It is reasonable to conclude that members of the public, station staff and security personnel would be fearful that there is something more sinister to it than just being flour alone,'' he said.
The DPP said there has been constant publicity in the local media on the need for the public to be on the lookout for suspicious substances or items, and how to identify them. White powder clearly falls in the category of suspicious substances, he added.
A strong message must be sent to the public that they should not leave items unattended, or items viewed as suspicious or hazardous around public transport networks or other public places where there is a high flow of human traffic, he said.
The court heard that Tay was a member of a running club called the "Seletar Hash House Harriers'', which organises runs every Tuesday for about 30 people over an 8km-route.
Each week, the run route would change, and is decided by someone who is assigned the "Hare'' for the week. The "Hare'' has the task of planning the running route and marking out the route, using materials such as paper, chalk and flour.
That day, Tay was the "Hare''. He planned the route from Aljunied Road to Serangoon Gardens and sprinkled small piles of flour on the ground every 10 to 15m, together with two club members.
Woodleigh MRT was a landmark along the route as the runners were supposed to use the underpass leading through the station, so as to avoid running on the main road, said DPP Tang.
While District Judge Chay Yuen Fatt agreed that this was one of the worst cases in terms of resources used and the inconvenience caused to the public, he accepted defence lawyer Harjeet Singh’s mitigation plea that Tay did not intentionally seek to cause those consequences.
"In that sense, it is not the worst case,'' the judge said.
He said that even if Tay did not mean to create a public scare, he should have known better and not do what he did.