Animal shelter volunteer fined for harassing wrong driver after dog was run over
SINGAPORE — He was aggrieved that a driver had refused to stop and render aid after running over a dog along Pasir Ris Farmway, so the animal shelter volunteer took to Facebook to reveal the driver’s details and post a comment that read, “Give her hell”.
SINGAPORE— He was aggrieved that a driver had refused to stop and render aid after running over a dog along Pasir Ris Farmway, so the animal shelter volunteer took to Facebook to reveal the driver’s details and post a comment that read, “Give her hell”.
Mark Lin You Cheng, 27, also posted a message on the Facebook page of Huttons Asia, saying, “Please manage your atrocious and cruel employee or the public will”.
It turned out that Lin, a freelance dog trainer, had wrongly pointed the finger at Ms Soon Kim Choo, who became the subject of a social media witch-hunt back in 2016. She was not behind the wheel of the car when the accident happened.
Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Kelvin Chong said on Tuesday (Jan 7) that this misidentification had contributed to a fair bit of harassment for Ms Soon.
“We need to discourage this irresponsible online behaviour,” DPP Chong said as he sought a fine of S$2,000.
Lin, who is also the co-founder and director of the Society for Animal Matters, pleaded guilty to one charge of revealing Ms Soon’s details publicly, and was fined S$1,400 by the district court.
His second charge of posting his comments on Huttons Asia was taken into consideration for his sentencing.
Both charges contravene the Protection from Harassment Act, which carries with it a maximum fine of S$5,000 for each charge.
Lin’s defence lawyer Joel Ng, who argued for a lower fine of S$500 or a bond of S$1,000, said that his client’s actions was borne out of a love for animals.
“He understands it was misguided, but he has made amends with the victim publicly, repented and apologised for it,” Mr Ng said. “He paid the price quite literally.”
Aside from posting a public apology to Ms Soon on his Facebook page on Feb 4 last year, Lin also paid the 41-year-old S$12,500 in an out-of-court settlement in response to a civil claim for defamation.
‘IT’S JUST A DOG’
The events that led up to Lin’s appearance in court first started on the morning of Oct 23, 2016 when a dog, named Sayang, ran out of an animal shelter located along Pasir Ris Farmway 3.
A post from the Animal Lovers League Facebook page about the incident stated that volunteers managed to coax Sayang to return to the shelter and it was just about to cross the two-way farm road when a car hit it.
The post said that there was “hardly any traffic” that morning.
Mr Ng said on Monday that Sayang was dragged for a short distance after it was hit by the car. When the volunteers tried to stop the driver, she shouted vulgarities at them.
While it was not mentioned in court, the Facebook post said that the driver then told the volunteers that it was “only a dog”, before she drove off.
The Animal Lovers League also wrote on its Facebook page that Sayang was injured by the accident. It did not provide any updates after that as to whether it died from its injuries or made a full recovery.
The volunteers at the shelter then took to social media asking for details of the driver.
Mr Ng said that Lin, who was 24 at the time, was aggrieved.
The court heard that in the “heat of the moment”, Lin received the details of the car’s owner, Ms Soon, via a screenshot taken from the One Motoring website that had been forwarded to him. He then posted it online with the comment, “Identity found”.
Ms Soon’s details went viral after it was picked up and shared by various other online sites such as Mothership.sg, The Independent and Stomp.
Court documents showed that Ms Soon received various calls from harassers and WhatsApp messages from unknown persons who assumed that she was the driver of the car.
The car was driven by Ms Alice Chong Say Kiaw at the time of the accident. The 52-year-old filed a police report after she hit the dog.
It is not known if any action has been taken against Ms Chong, or what is her relation to Ms Soon.
Under the Road Traffic Act, motorists involved in accidents with dogs are required to stop their vehicles and render assistance at the accident scene. Failure to do so is punishable by a S$3,000 fine or a jail term of up to a year.