SINGAPORE - Armed with a screwdriver, lawyer M. Ravi and his friend Lai Yew Thiam went up to the locked office of a law firm on multiple occasions and used the tool to gain entry into the premises.
Lai, 56, who has been in and out of jail since 1978 for crimes including theft and drug offences, was sentenced to four weeks' jail on Thursday (Dec 7) after pleading guilty to two counts of housebreaking.
He admitted he and Ravi had broken into the office of the Eugene Thuraisingam law firm in People's Park Centre in Upper Cross Street on June 23 and 27. A third count of breaking into the same law firm on June 17 was taken into consideration during sentencing.
Ravi, 48, was barred from practising for two years on Oct 27 last year. Despite this, the law firm employed the human rights activist and allowed him to work at its office.
However, on June 8, Ravi's employment was terminated and he was told in a hand-delivered letter that he had to vacate the premises by June 16. Court papers did not reveal the reason for his termination.
Ravi and Lai first broke into the office on June 17. The police were called and the law firm staff made it clear to the pair that they were not welcome.
The firm then engaged a locksmith to change the lock of the metal shutter door.
The pair went to the office five days later and tried to enter but failed. Undeterred, they returned the next day at around noon.
With a screwdriver, Lai managed to unscrew the sides of the metal shutter to bypass the new lock. Ravi and Lai then lifted the shutter and entered the premises of the office.
The staff of the firm alerted the police and the pair left "after some initial resistance", said Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Sarah Ong on Thursday.
The pair returned to the law firm on June 27 and committed housebreaking yet again.
DPP Ong urged District Judge Brenda Tan to sentence Lai to at least four weeks' jail for each housebreaking charge.
Lai's lawyer, Mr Satwant Singh, pleaded for his client to be jailed for a maximum of four weeks. He added: "His last brush with the law was in 2009 and since then, he has kept a low profile and has been rebuilding his life for the sake of his son."
Lai, who works with his brother-in-law in their family business, is out on bail of $5,000. He has to surrender himself at the State Courts on Jan 15 to begin his sentence.
On Nov 27, Ravi pleaded guilty to one count each of housebreaking, assault and causing hurt by performing a rash act. He is out on $20,000 bail and will be back in court on Jan 5.
Offenders convicted of housebreaking can be jailed for up to two years and fined for each charge.