Man jailed for using racial slur on NEA officers, wiping hands on one of them

Tay Teng How pleaded guilty to one charge each of using insulting words on a public servant and another of using criminal force on a public servant.
Tay Teng How pleaded guilty to one charge each of using insulting words on a public servant and another of using criminal force on a public servant.ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

SINGAPORE - When two National Environment Agency (NEA) officers tried to stop a 69-year-old taxi driver from smoking in a carpark, he insulted them with a racial slur.

Tay Teng How was sentenced to two weeks' jail and a $2,000 fine after pleading guilty to one charge each of using insulting words on a public servant and another of using criminal force on a public servant.

The court heard that the Singaporean was smoking at a multi-storey carpark in the Bukit Panjang area on Nov 22 last year when the two NEA officers approached him.

Smoking is not allowed in the carpark as it is a sheltered area.

At first, Tay refused to hand over his identity card to the officers for them to issue a summons, complaining that they did not "even give chance".

He eventually relented but when the officers returned the card to him, Tay repeatedly asked them for hand sanitiser.

Tay told the officers there was "Covid-19 around", and added: "Hold my thing and then return back to me, don't know whether you're infected or not... both of you all don't know from India or whatever..."

He then threw the identity card on the bonnet of his taxi and wiped both hands on the shirt sleeve of one of the officers.

"No, I have to clean it. I am very sensitive to this sort of thing," he said.

Seeking at least three weeks' jail and a $3,000 fine, Deputy Public Prosecutor Stephanie Chew said although the physical harm was low, Tay's conduct was "contemptuous".

"The accused's offence was directed at both victims and was especially offensive given the racial overtones and prevailing Covid-19 pandemic," she said.

In mitigation, Tay, whose wife accompanied him to court, said he regretted his actions and pleaded for leniency.

"Because of this case, I recently suffered from a stroke and am still under hospitalisation leave.

"I promise you this will be the first and the last (time)... Because of Covid-19, I was so conscious (of) hygiene," he said.

For using insulting words on a public servant, Tay could have been fined up to $5,000 and jailed for up to a year.

The offence of using criminal force on a public servant carries a maximum sentence of four years' jail and a fine.