SINGAPORE, Aug 18— When questioned by police officers about why he was not wearing his face mask properly at a fast-food outlet in City Square Mall, Philip Richard Mockridge repeatedly asked which laws they were referring to and refused to pull up his mask.
Back then and now, Covid-19 rules mandated that everyone in an indoor setting had to wear a mask over their nose and mouth due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Mockridge, a Singapore permanent resident who is from the United Kingdom, committed the offence when he was already under investigation for two similar breaches at other locations.
Today, the 55-year-old was fined S$8,000 (RM25,878) but told the court that he intends to appeal against the sentence.
He pleaded guilty to one count under the Covid-19 (Temporary Measures) (Control Order) Regulations. Another two charges were taken into consideration for sentencing.
‘Are you sure about that?’
The court heard that on May 16 last year, two Singapore Police Force officers responded to a call from someone who said that he had told Mockridge to wear his mask but he refused.
The officers approached Mockridge at the Mos Burger outlet at City Square Mall, located near Little India.
Mockridge had his mask pulled down to his chin such that it did not cover his nose and mouth. He did not have any food or beverages at the time.
The officers told him that he had to put his mask on while not eating or drinking, before presenting their police identification upon his request.
When one of them told him once more to put his mask back on properly while not eating or drinking, he replied: “Are you sure about that? I’m not so sure.” He then walked away to collect his food while still unmasked. Soon after, he returned to the officers with his mask still pulled down and his takeaway food in a plastic bag.
When they asked if he had an issue with covering his nose and mouth with the mask, he asked: “Which law are you referring to?”
He then retrieved his mobile phone and began taking a video recording of the exchange.
They repeated the question and he asked once more which law it was they mentioned.
One of the officers then told him about the Covid-19 temporary regulations and that he was supposed to cover his mouth and nose with his mask.
Mockridge responded: “And if I don’t, what will you do?” They told him about the usual composition fines for a first-time and second-time offence, and the usual practice of charging third-time offenders in court. He then said: “Are you threatening to put me in a cage?”
“ Are you threatening to put me in a cage? Philip Richard Mockridge, refusing a police request to wear his face mask properly ” They replied that they were informing him about the consequences of failing to comply with the law, and that it was for the court to determine the consequences.
Mockridge maintained that they were threatening him and persistently refused to wear his mask properly despite the officers’ instructions.
When one of them told him that he would have to answer to any follow-up action, he walked away from them.
Unmasked for 15 minutes
Today, Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Wu Yu Jie asked for the maximum fine of S$10,000 to be imposed.
He noted that Mockridge remained unmasked for at least 15 minutes, interacting with people at the fast-food outlet counter when he collected his food.
Mockridge’s responses to the police officers also “demonstrated his defiance”, the prosecutor added.
DPP Wu then responded to Mockridge’s mitigation plea, which he had prepared himself because he did not have a lawyer.
The prosecutor argued that Mockridge had no basis to doubt that the officers were real police officers. He also did not accept that Mockridge did not know he was being investigated for two previous incidents of not wearing a mask.
Mockridge had failed to wear a mask at Sengkang MRT Station on Nov 26, 2020, and again at Serangoon MRT Station on Dec 19 that year.
DPP Wu added that there was no basis for the court to grant Mockridge’s request for a “discharge with a stern warning”.
In turn, Mockridge told District Judge Soh Tze Bian that one officer had a “temporary pass”, which was not proper identification, and had no reason to believe that he had under any kind of investigation.
He also accepted that ignorance of the law was not a defence, but argued that he was uncertain about the rules and became “overly persistent” as a result.
The judge said that he was unable to accept Mockridge’s argument in mitigation but ruled that the prosecution’s proposed maximum fine should be “preserved for the most egregious breach”.
Mockridge had avoided the need for a trial and did not re-offend after the City Square Mall episode, District Judge Soh noted.
Those convicted of flouting Covid-19 laws can be jailed for up to six months or fined up to S$10,000, or punished with both. The punishment can be doubled for repeat offenders. — TODAY