Smoking Leads to a Prison Sentence for a Taxi Driver

Smoking Leads to a Prison Sentence for a Taxi Driver

Did You Know?

Using insulting words to a public servant could land you with a fine of up to S$5,000, jailed for up to a year, or both.
Plus, if you use criminal force on a public servant, you can face up to four years’ jail, a fine, or both.

Summary of the case before the court on 1 September 2021

Tay Teng How entered guilty pleas to one count each of using insulting words on a public servant and using criminal force on a public servant.

The defendant, a taxi driver, was sentenced to a prison sentence of two weeks, plus a S$2,000 fine. He had insulted two National Environment Agency (NEA) officers. They had spoken to him in a multi-storey car park and wanted to issue him a summons for smoking.

The Background to the Offence

On 22 November 2020, the defendant was spotted smoking at a multi-storey car park. Smoking is prohibited in the area. Consequently, two NEA officers – both Malaysians of Indian descent, issued him with a summons.

How did the Defendant Respond?

At first, he wouldn’t give the officers his NRIC. He also complained he’d not been given a chance and had insufficient money to pay. However, he eventually gave the officers his NRIC.

When the officers tried to give his card back, he asked several times if they had any hand sanitiser.

He further added that he felt unsafe, didn’t know if the officers had Covid-19, and that they should give him hand sanitiser.

During the incident, the defendant said: “Hold my thing and then return back to me, don’t know whether you’re infected or not … both of you all don’t know from India or whatever …”

The defendant threw down his card when it was given back to him and proceeded to wipe his hands on an officer’s shirt. He said he had to clean his hands as he was “very sensitive to this sort of thing”.

The prosecution said: “The implied context of the interaction was that the first victim should sanitise the accused’s NRIC before handing it back to the accused, because of the possibility that he was infected with COVID-19 and may be infectious”.

The prosecutor argued that the defendant should be given a custodial sentence of at least 3 weeks and a receive S$3,000 fine. He further added that his actions were “especially offensive given the racial overtones and prevailing COVID-19 pandemic”.

The court heard that the officers were professional and remained calm throughout the incident.

Was Tay Teng How repentant?

He told the court he had recently had a stroke, was remorseful for his behaviour and asked the court to be lenient.