Prosecution appeals for ex-CEO of The Prive Group to be jailed over assault on teen

Vu Han Jean-Luc Kha was handed a 12-month mandatory treatment order by a district judge in March. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The prosecution on Wednesday (Aug 24) appealed to the High Court, arguing that the former chief executive of food and beverage firm The Prive Group should be jailed for at least eight weeks for assaulting a 13-year-old boy.

Deputy Attorney-General Tai Wei Shyong sought to overturn a 12-month mandatory treatment order (MTO) that was handed down to Vu Han Jean-Luc Kha, 44, by a district judge in March.

Offenders given an MTO have to undergo treatment for the psychiatric condition that contributed to their offences, instead of serving jail time.

Mr Tai said the facts of the case warranted a jail term and that handing down an MTO would send the wrong message on how public interest is protected.

The prosecutor argued that Kha's mental disorder did not justify an MTO.

He highlighted that Kha saw a psychiatrist only on Nov 17, 2020 - a year after the drunk French national verbally abused and punched the boy on Nov 22, 2019, while they were in a lift.

Dr Ken Ung gave an initial diagnosis of adjustment disorder.

Kha then sought a second opinion at the Institute of Mental Health, where Dr Pamela Ng diagnosed him with bipolar disorder on Feb 26, 2021.

Kha adopted Dr Ng's diagnosis in seeking an MTO.

But Mr Tai argued that Dr Ng's reports were premised on incomplete facts based on self-reported information from Kha.

The prosecutor said Kha failed to tell Dr Ng, among other things, the exact words that he had used to abuse the victim and the fact that he had punched the victim in the head.

Mr Tai argued that Dr Ng did not adequately explain how the bipolar disorder contributed to Kha's actions.

"We believe that public confidence in the system would be eroded if, on these facts, the respondent is allowed to evade his just deserts by relying on a psychiatric decision which was diagnosed long after the incident and based on self-reported facts," he said in written submissions.

Defence counsel Teh Ee-Von cited other cases of offenders without mental disorders who were fined or given short jail terms for causing minor hurt to children.

She questioned why Kha should be punished more severely.

Ms Teh said her client did not know he had bipolar disorder before the incident, noting that mental disorders often go undetected.

She argued that Kha has shown rehabilitative potential and that he has since stopped drinking alcohol, which can exacerbate the symptoms.

Justice Vincent Hoong reserved judgment and will give his decision at a later date.

Kha had pleaded guilty to one count each of causing hurt and harassment.

On Nov 22, 2019, the victim, who was 13 years old then, and his younger brother, who was 12, were in a lift in Parklane Shopping Mall in Selegie at around 8.15pm when an intoxicated Kha and another man entered the lift.

Kha directed lewd comments at the victim, and for no apparent reason, punched the victim on his left temple, causing the boy to fall backwards and slam his left upper arm on the lift's handrail.

He then hurled vulgarities at the victim, who grabbed Kha's hands to prevent him from hitting him again.

Kha exclaimed: "You want to challenge me? Why do you want to challenge me?"

The other man held Kha back and pushed him out of the lift after it stopped on the first storey.

But Kha refused to leave and slapped the victim on his left cheek.

The incident mentally scarred the victim and he was still scared of taking a lift about a year later.

The Singaporean teenager, who cannot be named due to a gag order, also experienced flashbacks of the attack and had difficulties sleeping.

For causing hurt, an offender can be jailed for up to two years and fined up to $5,000.

For harassment, an offender can be jailed for up to six months and fined up to $5,000.

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