Sentencing framework for anonymous criminal intimidation cases

Those who intimidate others anonymously and inflict severe harm in the process could now find themselves liable to at least three years' jail if they are found to have a high level of culpability. Such culprits were not subject to any minimum sentences in the past.

This new indicative sentence was laid out by the High Court in a new sentencing guideline for anonymous criminal intimidation cases, following the unsuccessful appeal of a disgruntled insurance agent who called himself "Lord Voldermort" to intimidate and harass his clients.

Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon dismissed the appeal of Ye Lin Myint, 36, on July 19, noting that Ye's sentence of two years and five months' jail by a district judge was "on the low side", and not "manifestly excessive", as Ye's lawyers had contended. Ye had earlier pleaded guilty to 13 charges of criminal intimidation and harassment.

In judgment grounds issued yesterday, Chief Justice Menon said there is a dearth of the authorities dealing with cases of criminal intimidation involving anonymous communication.

"This calls for sentencing guidelines from the High Court to assist lower courts in sentencing such offences consistently," he said.

He laid out a new sentencing framework, which involves taking into account factors relating to the culpability of the culprit, and the harm caused.

There are nine different sentencing ranges and the appropriate range of sentences will be identified using a combination of the culpability and harm factors. The sentences will then be adjusted to account for aggravating factors such as lack of remorse, or mitigating factors such as a guilty plea.

Applying this new sentencing framework to Ye's case, Chief Justice Menon found that his aggregate sentence should have been around 34 months' jail.

Factors weighing against him included the fact that Ye was "motivated by malice and greed", said Chief Justice Menon, pointing out that Ye had made a wide range of threats to his clients, prospective clients, and their friends and families. He had been upset with them for not turning up at scheduled appointments, cancelling policies, or declining to buy the policies.

Between August and September 2017, Ye sent his victims threatening letters and e-mails.

As the prosecution did not appeal against the sentence, Chief Justice Menon said, he decided not to order a higher sentence, and dismissed Ye's appeal.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 19, 2019, with the headline Sentencing framework for anonymous criminal intimidation cases. Subscribe