Youth robber gets 2nd chance on appeal

A 21-year-old who was roped in by a friend to rob two women was yesterday given a chance to turn over a new leaf after the High Court allowed his appeal to be given probation instead of reformative training.

Judge of Appeal Chao Hick Tin noted that Koh Zhi Wei, who had succumbed to peer pressure to take part, was different from his three accomplices, who have all been sentenced to reformative training. Koh was a first-time offender and a probation report set out various positive actions he had taken after he was initially sentenced to reformative training by a district judge in July last year.

Justice Chao said the district judge was not wrong but he was willing to give Koh a second chance, to learn a skill, obtain gainful employment and turn over a new leaf with the help of his family. His parents, a deliveryman and a dental assistant, have promised to monitor him. The judge noted Koh had taken part "out of a misguided sense of friendship". "Friends who ask you to do wrong, they are not worth to be your friends," the judge advised him as he sentenced him to three years' probation.

Koh was a full-time national serviceman in November 2015 when a schoolmate with gambling debts, Royce Tan Wen Jun, 19, asked him to join in a plan to rob sex workers. The plan had been hatched by Tan and Chong Sheng Wang, 19 . Tan and Koh went to a condominium in Geylang to meet freelance masseuse Lin Mei Rui, 41, with whom they had earlier booked an appointment.

Chong and the third accomplice, Lydia Cholris Soh Ru Hui, 18, waited in the car. When the woman opened the door, the pair barged in with batons and told Ms Lin and her flatmate, housewife Zhang Daoqing, 38, to kneel. Theymade off with two mobile phones and cash totalling $5,509, which they shared with Soh and Chong.

Koh appealed against his sentence of reformative training, a tough regime in which offenders aged below 21 spend between 18 months and three years in jail.

His pro bono lawyer, Mr Josephus Tan, highlighted the differences between his client and his accomplices, who have either committed other offences or were not recommended for probation.

The lawyer argued that Koh has a high propensity for change.

A report by a probation officer set out how Koh, who has since completed full-time NS, has been attending church and counselling, holding a part-time job, doing volunteer work and spending more time with his parents.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 01, 2017, with the headline 'Youth robber gets 2nd chance on appeal'. Print Edition | Subscribe