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Jail for Changi Airport baggage handler who caused 286 luggage bags to be sent to wrong destinations

SINGAPORE — A baggage handler at Changi Airport, who swopped close to 300 luggage tags to have them sent to the wrong destinations, was said to be depressed due to a lack of support at work when he committed the acts of mischief.

Singapore Airlines and SilkAir had to pay compensation totalling more than S$42,000 to 221 affected passengers, after their luggage were sent to the wrong places because Tay Boon Keh swopped tags on the bags.

Singapore Airlines and SilkAir had to pay compensation totalling more than S$42,000 to 221 affected passengers, after their luggage were sent to the wrong places because Tay Boon Keh swopped tags on the bags.

Singapore

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SINGAPORE — A baggage handler at Changi Airport, who swopped close to 300 luggage tags to have them sent to the wrong destinations, was said to be depressed due to a lack of support at work when he committed the acts of mischief.

However, District Judge Jasvender Kaur rejected this defence on Monday (Nov 11) and sentenced 66-year-old Tay Boon Keh to 20 days’ jail.

The baggage handler committed the offences over three months in 2016 and 2017.

His lawyer told the court that Tay, tired at work, was aggrieved and seeking “temporary relief” when his complaints to his employer to get more manpower to help him were ignored.

The conveyor belt transporting baggage had an X-ray machine that experienced frequent power failures and broke down several times a day, his lawyer said. 

When that happened, Tan would have to physically carry all the luggage bags off the conveyor belt and move them to another belt located about 6m away.

At the time, Tay was employed by Lian Cheng Contracting, a firm hired as a subcontractor for Changi Airport Group, to align check-in luggage bags and ensure that they were properly placed on an X-ray machine for security screening before the bags were loaded onto planes.

The court heard previously that a total of 286 pieces of luggage were sent to the wrong destinations because Tay swopped the tags.

They belonged to passengers of Singapore Airlines and SilkAir who were travelling between Nov 8, 2016 and Feb 6, 2017.

The bags were originally bound for various parts of the world, including Frankfurt, London, Manila, Perth and San Francisco. The two carriers had to pay compensation totalling more than S$42,000 to 221 affected passengers.

Tay pleaded guilty to 20 counts of mischief in October last year. He could have been jailed up to a year and fined for each count of mischief.

A ‘RELIEF’ TO BE SWOPPING TAGS

At a Newton hearing held to determine if there was a causal link between Tay’s offences and his condition, psychiatrist Tan Chue Tin, who was the defence’s witness, stated that Tay swopped the tags to seek a form of cathartic relief from his major depressive disorder. 

He likened this relief to a “drug effect”, and that this made Tay “lose control”.

However, psychiatrist Tor Phern Chern, the prosecution’s witness, said that in an addiction, there were usually diminishing effects of the addictive substance or behaviour, which was absent in this case.

On Monday, District Judge Kaur noted that Tay “immediately” stopped swopping the luggage tags after he was transferred to do lighter work in February 2017.

Tay’s lawyers — Mr Lok Vi Ming and Mr Tang Jin Sheng of LVM Law Chambers who were representing him pro-bono — made the point that Tay’s depression had deprived him of self-control, evidenced by how he would head to the toilet during breaks and cry in a cubicle there.

He committed his many offences after he experienced “extreme relief” from swopping his first bag, and failed to realise the gravity and consequences of his actions — not until he learnt later that some passengers were unable to get their medicine as a result of his actions, they added.

However, Deputy Public Prosecutor Thiam Jia Min said that Tay clearly knew the implications of his actions, yet went on to commit the offences intending to bring about the “calculated outcomes” to exact revenge on his employer.

She added that Tay’s offences were “certainly not trivial by any measure” and caused “a significant degree of harm to society”, as it resulted in monetary losses and a loss of reputation to the affected airlines and Changi Airport.

Related topics

Changi Airport swop luggage jail court crime Singapore Airlines silkair depression compensation

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