SINGAPORE - An Instagram user who had falsely accused police officers of taunting an elderly woman for not wearing a mask earlier this year pleaded guilty on Wednesday (July 14) to an unrelated charge of using criminal force on a public servant.
Known as "nichology" on Instagram, owner of public relations agency Marque Singapore Nicholas Tan Jun Wei, now 28, was sentenced to two weeks' jail.
A harassment charge was considered during sentencing.
The victim in the current case was a Certis auxiliary police force enforcement officer who was then performing duties for the Urban Redevelopment Authority in 2019.
Among other things, he had been tasked to detect instances of illegal parking and issue notices to offenders.
He was performing parking enforcement duties in Clemenceau Avenue at around 4pm on Oct 7 that year when he spotted a parked car which did not display the necessary coupons.
The officer then made a check on his handheld device and issued a summons after he noted that there was also no activation of the "parking.sg" app for the vehicle.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Hidayat Amir said: "The accused then came towards the victim and shouted at the victim.
"The accused subsequently pushed the victim's right forearm when the victim was attempting to hand over the summons to the accused."
Tan, a Singaporean, then challenged the officer to call the police.
The DPP added: "The victim took out his phone to call for police assistance. At that point, the accused snatched the victim's phone away."
When asked, Tan returned the device and abused the officer with vulgar language.
After that, Tan entered his car, hurled more vulgarities at the officer and drove off.
Tan was represented by lawyers Gloria James and Kevin Liew.
In their mitigation plea, the lawyers from Gloria James-Civetta & Co said that their client "did not seek to cause hurt" to the victim.
They urged the court to sentence their client to a fine of not more than $6,000, adding: "This has been a thoroughly sobering experience for Nicholas and he deeply regrets how the incident had come about.
"This is a wake-up call for Nicholas and he promises never to reoffend again."
In the case linked to Tan's Instagram post, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) had earlier said that on May 17, police responded to an incident at Block 743 Yishun Avenue 5 at around 6.45pm.
An 85-year-old woman, who was not wearing a mask, appeared to be lost and the police officers attended to her to help her find her way home.
With the help of a member of the public, it was established that the woman lived in a nearby block, and her domestic helper was contacted to take her home.
As the incident took place during dinner time, the officers bought food for the woman, MHA said.
Tan made the headlines after his Instagram story later alleged that the police officers had instead, taunted and reprimanded the woman for not wearing a mask.
Online platform Singapore Uncensored then carried an article about the Instagram story while another, The Online Citizen Asia, shared his Instagram story.
In a statement on May 20, MHA said that Minister for Home Affairs K. Shanmugam had instructed the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act Office to issue the correction directions.
All parties would have to carry the correction notice as new posts.
The ministry had added: "Members of the public are advised not to participate in the spreading of unverified information and to be responsible when posting or sharing any information online."