Rooftop vandal given heavier sentence

Toa Payoh rooftop vandal Boaz Koh Wen Jie has been given a heavier punishment of reformative training, after Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon ruled in favour of the prosecution's appeal yesterday.

Koh was sentenced to 30 months probation last month, but the prosecution lodged an appeal and argued that this was too lenient.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Francis Ng had earlier pointed out that Koh had enrolled himself in a rehabilitation centre eight days before he pleaded guilty in January, and called this a "tactical manoeuvre" to get a lighter sentence.

DPP Ng urged the court to send Koh to the Reformative Training Centre (RTC), where he has to serve 18 months to three years, and undergo a strict regimen that includes foot drills and counselling.

Koh, 18, was one of five people who defaced the rooftop of a Housing Board block in Toa Payoh by spray-painting a profanity on it in May last year. The others have been given probation.

Boaz Koh Wen Jie, 18, has been sent for reformative training, after the sentence of probation was found to be too lenient. He was arrested for vandalising the roof of an HDB block last year. ST FILE PHOTO

Yesterday, CJ Menon said that given the seriousness of the crimes - vandalism, theft and trespass, a term of confinement and deprivation of liberty was warranted so as to send out a stronger message of deterrence.

Calling the vandalism "vulgar", CJ Menon said: "The vandalism was done in a manner to shock and attract widespread attention."

In sentencing, he noted that there were two aggravating factors.

First, Koh had committed the crime while still on probation for an earlier offence.

Second, risk factors to Koh's reoffending, including a lack of interest in studies and a lack of family support, still persist.

But the Chief Justice noted that it was promising that Koh had shown signs of a "positive turnaround" while at the rehabilitation centre.

"I welcome these signs of reform and repentance," he said, and encouraged Koh to continue to mend his ways.

Koh's lawyer, Mr James Ow Yong, said his client had accepted the sentence, and was prepared for a stint in the RTC.

He said of Koh: "In the last six months, his attitude has really changed. Just look at the fact that he's prepared to accept RTC."

But Koh's father said the sentence was still too harsh. "Every child is naive, but he's made an effort to change," said Mr Koh, who declined to give his full name.

His teary-eyed wife told her son to take care and study hard when he was led away.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 30, 2015, with the headline 'Rooftop vandal given heavier sentence'. Print Edition | Subscribe