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12 months’ jail for schizophrenic man with long history of petty theft who stole again repeatedly

SINGAPORE — A 56-year-old man with a long history of petty theft has been sentenced to 12 months' jail for his latest string of offences by a judge who said that he hoped jail would prove to be of assistance to the man.

12 months’ jail for schizophrenic man with long history of petty theft who stole again repeatedly
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  • A man who had many past convictions for theft offences was sentenced to 12 months' jail for repeatedly committing petty theft
  • Among the items pilfered by A Mathavan, 56, were soft drinks, cleaning products and supermarket shopping baskets
  • The court heard that he has schizophrenia though it was not stated whether his condition contributed to his offending
  • The prosecution asked for a sentence that reflected his recalcitrance yet took into account his mental condition

SINGAPORE — A 56-year-old man with a long history of petty theft has been sentenced to 12 months' jail for his latest string of offences by a judge who said that he hoped jail would prove to be of assistance to the man.

The court heard that A Mathavan has been diagnosed with schizophrenia although it was not stated in court whether his condition was regarded by experts as contributing to his offending.

Mathavan pleaded guilty to four charges of theft in dwelling.

A total of 10 other charges — including five similar charges, four harassment charges and one charge of uttering words hurting religious or racial feelings — were taken into consideration in the sentencing.

Mathavan was not represented by a lawyer but told the court via videolink that he had been struggling with the return of mental health issues and stole some items because he could not sustain himself.

Schizophrenia is a major psychotic illness and there is no cure for it, although the condition can be managed with medication and therapy.

Mathavan told the judge that he had difficulties securing a “proper job” because of his Institute of Mental Health (IMH) record and because “I got problem getting financial aid and all that”.

“I couldn’t get sufficient funds to sustain myself. That’s why I stole bread and all that,” he added. One of the charges taken into consideration involved Mathavan stealing bread.

In terms of the charges to which Mathavan pleaded guilty, the items he stole included paper notebooks, bottles of soft drink and supermarket shopping baskets.


The court heard that on Sept 14, 2021, Mathavan, who was unemployed at the time, had gone to a Popular bookstore to buy some items. After making payment at a counter, he asked if he could leave the items at the store and return later to collect them.

The shop employee then suggested that he opted for a delivery service, to which he agreed. After leaving his contact details, Mathavan left the store.

However, the employee was informed shortly afterwards that a few notebooks were missing from the counter. Closed-circuit television footage revealed that Mathavan had taken five of the notebooks, valued at about S$50 in total, while the employee was attending to him.

Court documents showed that Mathavan returned to the same bookstore two days later, when he pilfered a few batteries. On that occasion, he used abusive words to harass another employee.

These became the subject of two of the charges taken into consideration: One theft charge and one harassment charge.

On Sept 13 last year, Mathavan walked out of a Value Dollar shop with four cleaning products worth S$8.50 in total.

When the shop assistant tried to stop him, he told her that he had no money and could not afford to pay her. She then called the police.

This was the basis for one of the theft charges to which he pleaded guilty.

The remaining two charges to which he pleaded guilty involved him stealing soft drinks, cleaning and hygiene products as well as three shopping baskets in two incidents, one in September 2021 and another in November 2022.

The items were valued at between S$1.35 and S$6.50 each. 

He was arrested in November last year after a police gazette was issued for his arrest for offences involving shop theft.

Court documents showed that on Sept 16, 2021, just two days after the Popular bookstore offence, he verbally abused a Malay person at an MRT station, making references to his race and religion.

This charge of causing racial and religious hurt was taken into consideration.


The court heard that Mathavan had been convicted and detained many times since mid-1980s for similar theft offences.

This included being sentenced to 10-year preventive detention in 2002.

Preventive detention is a prolonged confinement sentence for offenders if they meet certain criteria, including being at least 30 years old and having racked up at least three convictions of a particular type before turning 16.

In his sentencing submissions, Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Maximilian Chew told the court that a psychiatric examination had found that the accused suffers from schizophrenia. 

The condition had relapsed at the time of the offences, the prosecutor added.

DPP Chew also told the court that the prosecution did not have a position on sentencing and instead left it to the court to mete out one that “would reflect (Mathavan's) recalcitrance … yet take into account his schizophrenia condition”.

In his mitigation, Mathavan pleaded for leniency and for his sentences to run concurrently.

He apologised several times to the court for his actions, and said that he had faced problems because of the relapse of his mental problems.

District Judge Kessler Soh ordered a jail term of six months for each of the proceeded charges, with two of the jail terms to run consecutively, with the remaining jail terms to run concurrently. 

In delivering the decision, the judge turned to Mathavan and said he hoped that the prison would give him some form of assistance.

For each count of theft in dwelling, Mathavan could have been sentenced to up to seven years’ jail and liable to a fine.

Related topics

court crime theft schizophrenia

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