Serial offender jailed 3-1/2 years for break-in bids, rioting

A recalcitrant offender, who had absconded from reformative training for theft, tried to break into two jewellery stores with a blowtorch while on the run.

Saatish Gautham, 20, was sentenced yesterday to 3½ years' jail after pleading guilty on June 19 to two counts of attempted housebreaking and an unrelated rioting charge which involved a knife attack last November with five others.

In handing down the sentence, District Judge Eddy Tham told him: "There is still a long road ahead of you... The choice is yours who you want to mix around with... You can choose your future."

The court heard that in 2013 and 2014, Saatish was placed on probation for offences including being a member of an unlawful assembly and causing mischief by fire.

He reoffended while on probation and was sentenced to reformative training in 2015. He was sent to a reformative training centre (RTC) to follow a strict regimen, but absconded from his day-release scheme last year.

While on the run, he and two accomplices - Mohammad Faris Mohammad Fadzir, 17, and Jamal Razeen Abdul Ghani, 19 - went to Little India at around 2am on March 11 last year. Jamal and Faris acted as lookouts while Saatish used a blowtorch to cut the hinges of the rear door of Merlin Goldsmith and Jewellery in Serangoon Road. They left after Faris spotted a man observing Saatish. They returned to Little India later that morning and Saatish used the blowtorch to dismantle the roller shutters of Jewel Palace in Buffalo Road.

But the shop's anti-theft alarm went off and the group fled empty-handed. The store owner's wife alerted the police that morning.

Last month, Saatish, who was unrepresented by a lawyer, pleaded for another stint in the RTC and claimed he did not undergo rehabilitation when he was last sent there.

But yesterday, the officer in charge of the reformative trainees' housing unit, Deputy Superintendent 2 Lim Zhaolun, told the court that Saatish had attended several rehabilitation programmes, including one to prepare him for employment. He said that during incarceration, Saatish had assaulted another inmate and threatened the staff.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Dwayne Lum told Judge Tham that Saatish had a "frightening propensity for violence". Urging the court to sentence him to 3½ years' jail, he said "rehabilitation can no longer be the dominant sentencing consideration".

For each count of attempted housebreaking, he could have been jailed up to seven years and fined. Faris and Jamal were sentenced to reformative training last year.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 04, 2019, with the headline 'Serial offender jailed 31/2 years for break-in bids, rioting'. Print Edition | Subscribe