SINGAPORE - A Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) officer has been sentenced to one month's jail for deleting video footage of fellow firefighter Corporal Kok Yuen Chin, 22, being pushed into a pump well during a ragging incident in May.
Adighazali Suhaimi, 33, a staff sergeant, was sentenced after he pleaded guilty on Wednesday (Dec 05) to intentionally obstructing the course of justice by deleting evidence relevant to criminal investigations into Cpl Kok's death.
He is the second SCDF officer to be sentenced for his involvement in the drowning of the full-time national serviceman on May 13 at Tuas View Fire Station.
The first was SCDF regular Muhammad Nur Fatwa Mahmood, 34, who was sentenced to 12 months' jail on Oct 23, after he admitted to the fatal push that resulted in Cpl Kok falling into the pump well and drowning.
Nur Fatwa, a staff sergeant, was also sentenced to four weeks' jail for instigating Adighazali to delete the video recording of the incident on his phone while waiting for the police to arrive.
Three other SCDF officers also face charges in relation to the case. They are Mohamed Farid Mohd Saleh, 34; Kenneth Chong Chee Boon, 38; and Nazhan Mohamed Nazi, 40.
Nazhan had in September indicated that he intends to claim trial.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Kumaresan Gohulabalan urged the court on Wednesday to sentence Adighazali to a jail term of at least one month, which is similar to what Nur Fatwa received for instigating the deletion of the video.
He said the duo had similar overall culpability and should receive similar sentences.
"Both were aware that an individual had died in the course of their actions and that investigations would commence as a result of the death. Despite the seriousness of this, they came to the agreement to delete the video," he said.
In mitigation, Adighazali's lawyer, Mr Ashwin Ganapathy, asked for a jail term of no more than 14 days, arguing that his client's culpability was lower than Nur Fatwa's.
While the duo were co-offenders, he said Adighazali did not plan to delete the video and had only done so after Nur Fatwa pressured him.
He said Adighazali had also confessed to deleting the video during the first police interview.
"Furthermore, by coming clean with the authorities very early on in the investigations our client has displayed a significant level of remorse."
However, DPP Kumaresan said Adighazali had only confessed to deleting the video after police had found the footage in the deleted folder of his mobile phone.
During sentencing, District Judge Chay Yuen Fatt said he did not agree that Adighazali's role was of lower culpability.
"The phone was in his possession, it was his, and he made a conscious and deliberate act to delete the video."
He also did not accept that Adighazali acted under pressure and said: "He was acting out of a moment of self-preservation and cowardice."
Court documents showed that the night of Cpl Kok's death had begun in festivity, where a group of officers - including Adighazali, Nur Fatwa and those charged - gathered to celebrate the NSF's impending operationally ready date on May 16.
A plaque and cake were presented to Cpl Kok, a permanent resident from Malaysia. The ragging ritual, which would involve him entering the pump well, was also brought up. Despite Cpl Kok's attempts to resist, he was carried to the well by fellow officers.
He drowned after being pushed into the well, and his body was pulled out 36 minutes later.
Following the incident, the SCDF said in September that it would decommission pump wells at fire stations and beef up initiatives to weed out ragging.
On Wednesday, Cpl Kok's father and aunt were in court for the second time over the case. They also witnessed Nur Fatwa's sentencing in October.
Mr Kok Meng Hwa, 56, a construction worker, said it was painful to hear the court rehash the chain of events that led to his son's death at each session, saying he might not turn up for the next hearing.
When asked how he and his family were faring, he said: "Life goes on... but my son won't come back."