Robertson Quay incident: Seven fined, work passes for six revoked

$9,000 FINE: Neil Gordon Buchan (left), James Titus Beatt (right), Joseph William Poynter and Perry Scott Blair ran into one another at Bar Bar Black Sheep, a bar in Robertson Quay, on May 16 at about 6pm. They bought drinks there and later at two ot
$9,000 FINE: Neil Gordon Buchan (left), James Titus Beatt (right), Joseph William Poynter and Perry Scott Blair ran into one another at Bar Bar Black Sheep, a bar in Robertson Quay, on May 16 at about 6pm. They bought drinks there and later at two other locations. At their last location, they chatted, drank and smoked for about 25 minutes before leaving.
$9,000 FINE: Neil Gordon Buchan, James Titus Beatt, Joseph William Poynter (left) and Perry Scott Blair (right) ran into one another at Bar Bar Black Sheep, a bar in Robertson Quay, on May 16 at about 6pm. They bought drinks there and later at two ot
$9,000 FINE: Neil Gordon Buchan, James Titus Beatt, Joseph William Poynter (left) and Perry Scott Blair (right) ran into one another at Bar Bar Black Sheep, a bar in Robertson Quay, on May 16 at about 6pm. They bought drinks there and later at two other locations. At their last location, they chatted, drank and smoked for about 25 minutes before leaving.
$8,000 FINE: From left: Michael Czerny, Jeffrey George Brown and Bao Nguyen Brown chatted and drank together for about 32 minutes before parting ways.
$8,000 FINE: From left: Michael Czerny, Jeffrey George Brown and Bao Nguyen Brown chatted and drank together for about 32 minutes before parting ways.

Seven people were fined in court yesterday over their involvement in an incident last month in which groups of people were seen flouting safe distancing rules in Robertson Quay during the circuit breaker.

Six of them also had their work passes revoked by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) and were banned from working here again. The ministry did not say which six were banned.

The seven had each pleaded guilty to one count of breaching circuit breaker regulations on May 16.

Four of them - Neil Gordon Buchan, 30; James Titus Beatt, 33; Joseph William Poynter, 35; and Perry Scott Blair, 38 - were each fined $9,000.

The remaining three - Michael Czerny, 45; Jeffrey George Brown, 52; and Bao Nguyen Brown, 40 - were each fined $8,000.

Buchan, Beatt, Poynter and Blair are all Britons. Buchan and Beatt were represented by Mr Shashi Nathan and Ms J. Jayaletchmi, while Poynter and Blair were represented by Mr Christopher Bridges.

The court heard earlier that Czerny, an Austrian, is a Singapore permanent resident. Bao and Jeffrey Brown are Americans and married to each other. They were represented by Mr Mirza Namazie and Mr Tay Jing En.

On May 16, at about 6pm, Buchan, Beatt, Poynter and Blair ran into one another at Bar Bar Black Sheep, a bar in Robertson Quay. They bought alcoholic drinks there before walking along the pathway running parallel to the Singapore River towards Clarke Quay. The group then bought more drinks at two other locations - Boomarang, another bar, and Italian restaurant Rosso Vino in Merbau Road.

They later stood next to the pathway near Rosso Vino where they chatted, drank and smoked for about 25 minutes before leaving.

The court heard that Bao and Jeffrey Brown went to Robertson Quay after exercising together, at about 6pm the same day.

They bought alcoholic drinks from TAP @ Robertson Quay, a bar, and went to a table nearby to drink, where they encountered Czerny walking his dog in the area.

 
 
 

The three chatted and drank for about 32 minutes, before the couple and Czerny parted ways.

Photographs of crowds along Robertson Quay, which showed people failing to keep a safe distance of 1m from one another, went viral last month. Most of the people photographed were not wearing masks, while some had their masks lowered as they spoke to one another.

On May 17, the Urban Redevelopment Authority issued a directive to some restaurants in Robertson Quay, barring them from selling alcohol for takeaway, as such sales contributed to more people gathering in the area.

Yesterday, Deputy Public Prosecutor Timotheus Koh urged the court to jail Buchan, Beatt, Poynter and Blair each for at least a week. "The nature of the meeting was essentially a 'pub crawl'," he said.

He submitted that the other three should be fined $9,000 each as they stayed at a single location, unlike the first group.

In mitigation, defence lawyers for the seven offenders said that the respective gatherings by their clients were chance meetings.

Senior District Judge Bala Reddy noted that while their conduct was "deplorable", both gatherings did not last for more than an hour and were confined to the area. For flouting circuit breaker regulations, first-time offenders can be jailed for up to six months and fined up to $10,000. Repeat offenders can be jailed for up to a year and fined up to $20,000.

Two other men - Alfred Jon Veloso Waring, 34, and Olagunju Daniel Olalekan Olasunkanmi, 30 - have been charged in a related incident in the same area. They are expected back in court on July 7.

In a statement yesterday, MOM said that six of the offenders are among the 140 work pass holders who had their passes revoked between May 1 and June 25 for breaching circuit breaker regulations, stay-home notices (SHN) or quarantine orders (QO).

 
 
 

Of the 140 individuals, 42 were caught outside their residence while on SHN or QO. The other 98 were found eating, drinking and gathering in groups in public during the circuit breaker period.

These individuals have also been permanently banned from working in Singapore.

MOM said all work pass holders must abide by the law, and it will continue to take enforcement actions against those who do not comply.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 26, 2020, with the headline 'Robertson Quay incident: Seven fined, work passes for six revoked'. Subscribe