Thursday, 27 April 2017

Couple who bullied old man at Toa Payoh hawker centre arrested and charged in court

Hawker centre quarrel: Couple arrested for causing public nuisance
Arrest of couple in Toa Payoh hawker centre dispute reflects intense public interest in case: Lawyers
By Shaffiq Idris Alkhatib, The Straits Times, 27 Apr 2017

In a move that lawyers said reflected the intense public interest in the case, police have arrested a couple, believed to be the ones seen quarrelling with an older man in a hawker centre, for causing public nuisance.

A video clip of the incident had been posted online, sparking negative reactions.

In a statement, police said officers arrested a 46-year-old man and a 39-year-old woman on Tuesday. They had allegedly used offensive language and force against a 76-year-old man at a hawker centre in Toa Payoh Lorong 8.

Police received reports about the case on Sunday and the couple's identities were established through follow-up investigations.

Investigations are still ongoing.

Lawyers told The Straits Times yesterday that arrests for causing public nuisance are not common.

Mr Raphael Louis from Ray Louis Law said officers could have arrested the couple because the case had attracted a lot of public attention - most of it negative.

"Moreover, the case was between a relatively young couple and an elderly man, who is a vulnerable victim," he added.

Another lawyer, Mr Rajan Supramaniam from Hilborne Law, shared his view. He said: "Causing public nuisance is not a serious offence. However, there has been a lot of public interest in this case and so a warrant was issued for the couple to be arrested after the police conducted their investigation."

Mr Supramaniam said a person convicted of causing public nuisance has performed an act that has annoyed the public or disrupted the public peace. This includes using vulgar language and shouting in public.

Mr Louis said the police will likely consult the Attorney-General's Chambers, which will then decide if the couple should be charged in court.

The online video, lasting a minute or so, showed a woman and an elderly man exchanging words over a table at the hawker centre.

Her companion is later seen walking into the scene and, as he does so, knocking into the older man, who falls against the tabletop.

A woman claiming to be the old man's daughter has hit out at the couple's treatment of her father.

In a Facebook post on Tuesday morning, Ms Caroline Ng said she learnt about the April 21 incident after reading several online posts and watching a video of it.

She wrote: "No words can express my outrage and disgust... What I find unbelievable is for the entire two days, my dad never for once mentioned a word of it."

Those convicted of being a public nuisance can be fined up to $1,000.

* Couple in Toa Payoh hawker centre dispute charged
By Elena Chong, Court Correspondent, The Straits Times, 16 Jun 2017

The couple who allegedly verbally and physically abused an elderly man over a table at a hawker centre in Toa Payoh were charged in court yesterday.

Tutor Tay Puay Leng alias Zheng Peiling, 38, was charged with using abusive words on Mr Ng Ai Hua alias Ivor Ng with intent to cause alarm at about 8.35pm at the Lorong 8 hawker centre on April 21.

Her husband, Malaysian Chow Chuin Yee, 45, a director of a tuition centre, was accused of using criminal force on the 76-year-old by using his body to forcefully barge into the victim in the back. About five minutes later, he allegedly shoved some bowls and plates off the table onto the ground.

A video that went viral showed a woman, who was dressed in white, shouting at an elderly man before her male companion shoved the man from behind. The video, which was posted on Facebook on April 23, was shared extensively, with netizens expressing disgust at the couple's behaviour.

Police arrested them on April 25. They were out on police bail of $10,000 each, pending investigation. Their lawyer, Mr S. Balamurugan, told the court yesterday that he had just been briefed.

He asked for time to make representations to the Attorney-General's Chambers.

The couple's case will be mentioned again on July 12.

If convicted of causing alarm, Tay could be fined up to $5,000 and/or jailed for up to six months.

The maximum penalty for using criminal force is three months in jail and a $1,500 fine, and for disorderly behaviour, a $2,000 fine and six months in jail.

Online 'CSI' vigilantes: The good, the bad and the ugly
By Melissa Lin, The Sunday Times, 30 Apr 2017

They lurk online, ready to pounce.

Once a target has been identified, they trawl through various social media sites to ferret out whatever details they can get and publish it.

Such is how online vigilantes - who pride themselves on executing "social justice" - work.

In the latest episode, the "investigation" went badly wrong. A bank, a woman and her boyfriend had their names dragged through the mud when keyboard warriors wrongly identified them as being connected to the abuse of an old man.

Experts say such vigilantism or virtual lynching, where netizens take it upon themselves to exact justice, will only rise, fuelled by the proliferation of recording devices, social media and a sense that the authorities may not take adequate action.

Last Sunday, a video uploaded on Facebook showed a woman and a man quarrelling with an older man at a hawker centre in Toa Payoh.The police stepped in later, arresting the pair, but some netizens had already taken matters into their own hands.

In forums and on Facebook, they claimed that the couple worked at the United Overseas Bank's (UOB) Toa Payoh branch and posted photos allegedly of them. Some threatened to close their UOB accounts if the bank did not fire the pair.

It forced UOB to issue a statement refuting the allegations, while the woman wrongly identified as the one in the video filed a police report. In a Facebook post, Ms Cherry Tan, 22, clarified that she is a full-time student who has never worked at a bank, and thanked her family and friends for standing by her.

And in a twist, a man who repeated the false claims on a Facebook thread was himself "CSI-ed" - a term inspired by the TV series Crime Scene Investigation.

On at least one forum, netizens posted information about his workplace and photos of him.

It is hard to pinpoint who these "CSI-ers" are, how big the group is, and why they do what they do.

"The motives could be many and complex," said social media expert Michael Netzley from Singapore Management University.

"Perceptions of fairness are a deep and powerful human motivator," he added. "People may enjoy the feeling of accomplishment of being the one who solves, or helps solve, the puzzle of identity. Others may wish to show how clever they are."

CSI-ers often work with incomplete information - in the Toa Payoh case, the video was just over a minute long and the footage was blurry - and the danger of misidentification is real. Even if the truth surfaces later, the damage has already been done, said social media lawyer Lionel Tan of law firm Rajah & Tann. "Even if the wrong identification is corrected, by the very nature of the Internet, it will be very difficult to remove all mention and association with the incident."

But there is an upside: In this case, online vigilantism "helped to catalyse enforcement action by the police", as it set in motion a wave of moral outrage at what happened, said National University of Singapore media studies instructor Gui Kai Chong. Lawyers had said officers may have made the arrest because of the attention it received.

Mr Tan said victims of online vigilantes can turn to the Prevention from Harassment Act if the vigilantism borders on harassment. Incorrectly identified individuals "have strong grounds to seek recourse for defamation and retraction of the wrong identification", he added.

Dr Netzley said: "Any time you create an online profile or post, you should always assume that it can be seen by the entire world... That is the cold truth about the world we live in."


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