Youth who joined friend's robbery plan gets probation, escapes reformative training

21-year-old Koh Zhi Wei has been granted probation on May 30 by the High Court after he was sentenced to reformative training by a district judge in July last year.
21-year-old Koh Zhi Wei has been granted probation on May 30 by the High Court after he was sentenced to reformative training by a district judge in July last year.ST GRAPHICS

SINGAPORE - A 21-year-old youth who was roped in by a friend to rob two women was on Tuesday (May 30) 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 from the instigator to take part in the robbery, 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 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. Koh's parents, a deliveryman and a dental assistant, have undertaken to monitor their son.

The judge noted that Koh did not hatch the robbery plan but 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 the youth 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, who suggested robbing prostitutes at their apartments.

Tan and Koh went to a condominium in Geylang East Avenue 2 to meet freelance masseuse Lin Mei Rui, 41, with whom they had earlier booked an appointment. Chong and a fourth 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 her to kneel. Her flatmate, housewife Zhang Daoqing, 38, was told to kneel as well.

Tan tied their hands with cable ties and took turns with Koh to search for valuables. They made 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 behind bars.

His lawyer, Mr Josephus Tan, who acted on a pro bono basis, highlighted the differences between his client and the other accomplices.

Mr Tan noted that Chong and Soh have been placed on probation before for previous offences and pointed out how probation was not offered as an option for Tan, who has drug problems and other "unhealthy habits".

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.