Man jailed 15 months for threatening PM Lee via Facebook messages and hurting policemen

Tan Yeong Hong pleaded guilty to a charge of criminal intimidation and to two counts of hurting two policemen.
Tan Yeong Hong pleaded guilty to a charge of criminal intimidation and to two counts of hurting two policemen.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - A 33-year-old man who sent four threatening messages to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's Facebook account earlier this year was jailed for 15 months on Wednesday (Dec 9).

Tan Yeong Hong had earlier pleaded guilty to a charge of criminal intimidation and to two counts of hurting two policemen.

At the time of the offence, he was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia, which had been undiagnosed and untreated for 16 years. But a report from the Institute of Mental Health found that he was not of unsound mind then. He was also found to be fit to enter a plea in court.

In passing sentence, Community Court Judge Mathew Joseph noted that psychiatric reports found Tan to be a "high risk" to all around him, including his parents and strangers.

"It is quite clear that you require psychiatric follow up and observation before being released to the community at large," said the judge.

"The court hopes that your stint (in prison) will help put you in a period of stable remission," he added.

The court heard that Tan believed he had been approached 10 years ago by an unnamed Chinese man, and was instructed to pass "data" to Mr Lee.

At about 8 pm on June 24 this year, he went to Mr Lee's Meet-the-People session to pass him an article that he had typed.

Tan carried a black haversack containing a hammer, but said he had no intention to use it.

As Mr Lee was not present, Tan passed the article to a grassroots leader.

Later that night, Tan used his mobile phone to send the four threatening private messages to the Prime Minister's Facebook account.

The identical messages, sent at at 8.49pm, read: "Eh, You challenged me to visit your MPS but you are not here. I will find and stage an Attack on you when I have information on your Public Appearances. You know who I am". Tan also included his IC and mobile phone numbers.

Tan claimed he was prompted to do so by "someone with a hidden audio and surveillance device planted in my house".

Subsequently, "the people in the audio and surveillance system" in his house told him to find Mr Lee when he made a public appearance, Tan said.

Tan was asked by the voices he heard to throw a hammer at Mr Lee, "because he refused to take the document from me after he had asked me to prepare it."

Tan then checked Mr Lee's Teck Ghee ward Facebook page to determine his next public appearance, which he wrote down on a piece of paper.

Shortly after 2 pm on June 25, a senior manager from the Prime Minister's Office lodged a police report about the four messages.

The police ascertained Tan's identity later that day, and officers who interviewed his parents were told he was a violent person who always armed himself with a knife which he kept inside his bag.

When four officers approached Tan at the carpark below his block in Hougang Avenue 1 at about 7.55pm the same day, he refused to disclose his identity and turned hostile.

Tan threw a punch at Senior Staff Sergeant Cheong Kok Leun and then elbowed Staff Sergeant Ryan Tan Yik Mong. He was subdued and arrested.

A search of his home uncovered a bag containing a hammer and a chopper and several knives, among other things. There was also a piece of paper in the bedroom listing Mr Lee's potential public appearances.

Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Andre Chong urged the court to impose a total sentence of between 18 and 23 months' jail, noting that Tan's own family members were fearful of him. Both his parents had recently applied for Personal Protection Orders, although his mother has withdrawn her application.

The prosecution was also not placing any weight on the target of his intimidation charge, only on Tan's "own condition and the risk that the continues to pose to the public," said DPP Chong.

In mitigation, Tan's pro-bono lawyer Alice Tan asked for a total sentence of 11 months' jail. She said Tan was not a dangerous offender, and that the key sentencing consideration should be his rehabilitation.

Tan was an "exceptionally bright child", scoring three A*s and an A in his Primary School Leaving Examinations. But when he was 15, he could no longer catch up with his schoolmates and was moved from the Special to the Express stream. It was around this time that he started hearing "microphones in the walls at home that spoke to him".

He took his GCE "N" levels as a private candidate, and later did odd jobs in supermarkets and in the the food and beverage industry.

Tan also twice saw IMH doctors, in 1999 and in 2006, but was found to have "conduct disorder" or "no mental illness", and later defaulted on his follow up treatment plans.

For committing criminal intimidation, Tan could have been jailed for two years and fined. For causing hurt to a public servant in the discharge of his duty, he could have been jailed for up to seven years or fined or caned, or received any combined punishment.