Singaporean woman seen without mask in viral videos denied release without bail; set to plead guilty

Phoon Chiu Yoke seen outside the State Courts on July 6, 2021. ― TODAY pic
Phoon Chiu Yoke seen outside the State Courts on July 6, 2021. ― TODAY pic

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SINGAPORE, Aug 5 — A 54-year-old woman captured in viral videos not wearing a face mask in several public places returned to court yesterday (August 4), where a judge rejected her application to be released from remand without bail.

Phoon Chiu Yoke, who gained notoriety in May after a video of her questioning a safe distancing ambassador at Marina Bay Sands (MBS) was circulated online, had her bail of S$12,000 revoked two weeks ago after getting a new charge. 

She currently faces 22 charges in total. She had previously urged the prosecution to drop them over procedural errors, claiming she was an “ex-naval officer of professional standing”.

However, she told the court through a video-link on Wednesday that she has accepted the prosecution’s offer to proceed on nine charges and have the others taken into consideration for sentencing. 

She initially claimed that most of the charges had been “dropped”, but Deputy Public Prosecutor Jane Lim clarified that this was not the case.

Phoon indicated that she intends to plead guilty next Thursday.

She also asked for her passport to be returned on account of her “stellar professional record”, claiming that she had “not maliciously or wilfully committed any other offences”. But DPP Lim noted that this was because she has been in remand.

District Judge Terence Tay also rubbished Phoon’s arguments, noting that she had re-offended from the moment she was set to claim trial to one charge in May. She had turned up at the State Courts without a mask on and was given a fresh charge over this.

Phoon also said that she had “no criminal record in Singapore” and asked to be released “without any conditions”.

“I will not run away from court. I have always appeared on time as requested by the investigation officers,” she reiterated.

In rejecting her request, the judge said that the Covid-19 pandemic is far from over and the wearing of masks continues to be a safeguard.

“Given the egregious nature of your breaches — one right outside court — they speak for themselves. I’m not persuaded that the original order of no bail should be disturbed,” he added.

What happened

Phoon was initially charged in December last year with not wearing a mask at Newton Food Centre. 

When she returned to court in May for her trial, she was photographed removing her mask and smiling at news photographers as she left the State Courts.

She was hauled back to court the next day where she claimed that she did not know she had to wear a mask in public and found it “very abnormal”.

She was then referred to the Institute of Mental Health for two weeks for a psychiatric assessment but details of the assessment have not been revealed in open court.

Phoon has also been charged with breaching a stay-home notice in June last year when she returned from the United Kingdom. 

She claimed to have returned from a vacation in Scotland.

The period of her alleged offences related to laws on infection control now spans from June 28 last year to June 25 this year. 

For her latest charge, court documents showed that Phoon failed to wear a mask in Mandarin Orchard hotel at 3.03pm on June 25.

In the first video that surfaced of her, which was taken at MBS, Phoon was heard questioning a safe distancing ambassador: “If you have no badge, why are you asking me to do something? Who are you representing?”

Phoon allegedly entered the shopping complex in the integrated resort without wearing a mask, despite repeated advice from the safe distancing ambassador to do so.

If convicted, Phoon could be jailed for up to six months, or fined up to S$10,000 (RM31,237), or receive both punishments, for each of the 22 charges. ― TODAY

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