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Prosecution appeals for jail time in case of Prive Group’s ex-CEO who assaulted boy in lift

SINGAPORE — Public prosecutors on Wednesday (Aug 24) appealed at the High Court for a jail term and fine for the former chief executive officer of The Prive Group who had punched a 13-year-old boy in a lift and asked lewd questions to the victim back in 2019.

Vu Han Jean-Luc Kha pictured at the State Courts in October 2021.

Vu Han Jean-Luc Kha pictured at the State Courts in October 2021.

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  • The prosecution appealed for a jail term and fine for the former chief executive officer of The Prive Group who had assaulted a boy
  • Vu Han Jean-Luc Kha was given a mandatory treatment order, in part due to his bipolar disorder
  • Prosecutors argued that the facts of the case called for a harsher sentence
  • Otherwise, it would send a wrong message in terms of protecting public interest and be a precedent for future cases

SINGAPORE — Public prosecutors on Wednesday (Aug 24) appealed for a jail term and fine for the former chief executive officer of The Prive Group who had punched a 13-year-old boy in a lift and asked him lewd questions.

Vu Han Jean-Luc Kha, a 44-year-old Frenchman heading the food-and-beverage company, was sentenced to a mandatory treatment order in March after pleading guilty last October to voluntarily causing hurt and intentionally causing alarm to the boy.

On the first day of the appeal hearing at the High Court, Deputy Attorney-General Tai Wei Shyong and Deputy Public Prosecutor Goh Yong Ngee stressed that the prosecution is seeking a tougher sentence for the sake of public interest.

An mandatory treatment order is a community-based sentencing option offered to offenders suffering from mental conditions that contributed to their offences.

A psychiatrist had found that Vu Han, who has bipolar disorder, was likely experiencing a manic episode with possible psychosis during the incident on Nov 22, 2019, and recommended the treatment order because the condition had a contributory link to his offences.

The prosecution argued that the facts called for a harsher sentence in the form of a jail term and that Vu Han’s bipolar disorder did not sufficiently justify the treatment order.

Deputy Attorney-General Tai said that the “unprovoked assault” was committed against a young victim, while Vu Han's voluntary intoxication that contributed to the offence was also not given sufficient weight.

“Such cases plainly call for a deterrent and retributive sentence — a custodial sentence,” the prosecution said in a written submission.

THE ASSAULT

The court previously heard that Vu Han was drunk when he entered a lift with his friend at Parklane Shopping Mall along Selegie Road on the evening of Nov 22, 2019.

He asked the victim, who was with a 12-year-old brother, whether he had hair on his private parts.

When the victim replied “no”, Vu Han asked if the boy wanted to see his private parts. He eventually punched the boy on the head and verbally abused him with vulgarities and inappropriate comments.

Vu Han refused to leave despite his friend’s intervention when the lift reached the ground floor, and used his foot to stop the lift doors from closing so that he could slap the victim’s face.

In sentencing him to a treatment order instead of the eight weeks’ jail sought by the prosecution earlier, District Judge Lim Tse Haw called Vu Han’s offences “deplorable”, saying that he had attacked a vulnerable young victim both physically and verbally in a “totally unprovoked” incident.

However, the judge said that Vu Han’s actions were “not so heinous” as to rule out the sentencing principle of rehabilitation.

PSYCHOLOGICAL AND PHYSICAL HARM

On Wednesday, Deputy Attorney-General Tai argued that the facts of the case call for a jail term.

He drew attention to the psychological harm that the victim suffered, referring to an impact statement in November 2020 when the victim said that he still feared going into a lift and suffered flashbacks of the incident.

In terms of physical harm, he highlighted how District Judge Lim himself had said it was “fortuitous” that the boy suffered just a minor bruise, stressing that the potential harm was relevant in consideration towards determining the culpability of the offender.

Deputy Attorney-General Tai argued that sentencing Vu Han to a mandatory treatment order instead of a jail term would send the wrong message in terms of the protection of public interest.

The prosecution also argued that Vu Han’s mental condition was not enough to reduce his culpability to the extent that he could escape jail time.

Deputy Attorney-General Tai pointed to how the man first saw a psychiatrist almost a year after the commission of the offences.

Vu Han went on to seek a second opinion at the Institute of Mental Health, where psychiatrist Pamela Ng diagnosed him with bipolar disorder instead of the earlier adjustment disorder.

The prosecutor further argued that Dr Ng’s report was based on incomplete and inconsistent facts provided by Vu Han, and did not sufficiently explain how the disorder contributed to his offences.

In the written submission, the prosecution said: “We believe that public confidence in the system would be eroded if, on these facts, (Vu Han) is allowed to evade his just desserts by relying on a psychiatric decision, which was diagnosed long after the incident and based on self-reported facts.”

PUBLIC INTEREST OR PUBLIC SENTIMENT?

Defence counsel Teh Ee-Von began her rebuttal by questioning if the prosecution was indeed referring to public interest in its arguments, or was more concerned about public sentiments.

Ms Teh also noted that while Vu Han’s attacks on the boy were unprovoked, the psychiatrist’s report showed it was her client’s belief that the boy had said something “irksome” to him and that prompted him to act.

She then highlighted cases where offenders with no mental disorder had caused injury to children to a much greater degree than her client had, yet were only given short custodial sentences.

Addressing the prosecution’s point about the lengthy period between the incident and the psychiatric assessment, which Justice Vincent Hoong who was presiding over the appeal hearing also put to her, Ms Teh said that mental disorders generally go unnoticed and their symptoms hardly distinguished from a bad day or bad temper until they reach a certain point.

What was more important, she added, was not so much when the assessment was made, but that the psychiatrist said that the mental condition had contributed to the offence when it occurred.

In his response, Deputy Attorney-General Tai reiterated that the prosecutor’s position in seeking a custodial sentence had remained unchanged from the start and so, it could not be said that the appeal was made due to public sentiment.

His contention is how the case had been argued and the prosecution is concerned that it would be a precedent for future cases.

The judge reserved judgement for a later unspecified date, after both parties presented their arguments.

Related topics

court crime assault The Prive Group CEO teenager appeal

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