When they staged a riot in the Singapore Boys' Home last September, the juvenile inmates acted tough and even broke into song while waiting for the police to apprehend them. But all that bravado faded for one of them in court yesterday.
As Deputy Public Prosecutor Grace Chua was addressing the court on sentencing matters following the incident, which left a 44-year-old auxiliary police officer with an eye injury that is most likely permanent, one of two 17-year-old boys standing before the judge suddenly fell back in his seat in the dock.
A woman, believed to be his mother, went up to him and massaged his head to give him some comfort as the other boy looked on. After five minutes, court proceedings continued.
District Judge Eddy Tham then sentenced each of them to a year's reformative training. This means the teenagers will be detained in a reformative training centre to follow a strict regimen that includes foot drills and counselling.
The judge said that they had taken part in "causing havoc without any care or regard to anyone else" and stressed that those who behaved in such a manner must be "punished severely".
The boys are the first two to be sentenced over the incident. They each pleaded guilty last month to a rioting charge and two counts of vandalism. The rioters cannot be named owing to a gag order.
A third 17-year-old youth, who also pleaded guilty to similar charges last month, was arrested on Wednesday over alleged drug-related offences. His case has been adjourned to Oct 10.
The court heard that the trio were sent to the home in Jurong West after they committed offences, including theft. Besides the injured auxiliary police officer, the riot also left a 33-year-old youth guidance officer and the home's 45-year-old assistant manager with head injuries.
The riot happened at around 5.50pm on Sept 28 last year after the youth guidance officer called for everyone to fall in at the home's courtyard. One of the trio and a 15-year-old boy started a fake argument which led to a fight. When the officer tried to separate them, the 15-year-old punched the man's face, and the other teens, including the trio, joined in the attack.
The assistant manager and the auxiliary police officer, who tried to help the man, were also attacked by the teens.
One of them - the teenager who was comforted by his mother in court - then used a floorball stick to hit the assistant manager in the back of his head. The boy arrested on Wednesday struck the auxiliary police officer's head with a similar stick multiple times. The injured adults eventually fled the scene.
The trio and the other rioters also took turns to damage property at the home. The cases involving the other rioters are still pending.