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‘So what?’: Man who posted about dinner gathering during circuit breaker fined S$4,500

SINGAPORE — A 38-year-old man who spent an hour at his cousin-in-law’s Circuit Road flat having dinner, while circuit breaker measures were in force, was fined S$4,500 on Wednesday (May 20).

Francis Soh Seng Chye arriving at the State Courts on May 20, 2020.

Francis Soh Seng Chye arriving at the State Courts on May 20, 2020.

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SINGAPORE — A 38-year-old man who spent an hour at his cousin-in-law’s Circuit Road flat having dinner, while circuit breaker measures were in force, was fined S$4,500 on Wednesday (May 20).

Francis Soh Seng Chye is the first individual to be dealt with under Regulation 6 of the Covid-19 (Temporary Measures) (Control Order) Regulations 2020, which bans social gatherings during this period.

He committed the offence on April 8, one day after the circuit breaker period kicked in.

The court heard that Soh met his cousin-in-law, Ms Lye Bao Ru, at her flat that evening to hand over the keys to the car they shared. Both Soh and Ms Lye are part-time private-hire drivers.

There, Ms Lye invited him to dinner at her place. The gathering lasted for about an hour and there were seven people attending it, including Soh and Ms Lye’s two children.

During the dinner, Soh took pictures and posted them on Facebook with the caption: “After a long long long long super long day... we are having a illegal gathering... so what? Enjoy the food to the max.”

When his friends saw the post, they asked why he was still at a gathering during the circuit breaker period. 

One of them subsequently sent the post to media outlet Stomp, and other media platforms picked up on it afterwards.

Soh removed the post after Ms Lye asked him to do so.

Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Kenneth Chin, who sought a fine of S$5,000, argued that Soh had broken the law at a time when “members of the society have to make enormous sacrifices of forgoing the companionship of families and loved ones”.

Even after circuit breaker measures are eased next month, members of the public cannot be complacent and the court needs to send a deterrent message to “irresponsible” people, DPP Chin said.

He added: “The accused’s offence in this case is particularly serious. This is because not only did he willfully refuse to comply with a law that prohibited gathering for a social purpose, he mischievously went further to broadcast his defiance on social media. 

“Not only would this cause alarm about the health implications of such gatherings, it also mocks and belittles the efforts of those who are abiding by the law, and has the effect of encouraging others of similarly flouting the law.”

Addressing Soh’s “so what?” social media post, the prosecutor further told the court: “What happens is you get charged, and when the rest of the nation is staying home this morning, you are here to face the consequences of your actions. I hope this answers your question, Mr Soh.”

DPP Chin also revealed that Soh was previously jailed for drug consumption, and was sent to the Drug Rehabilitation Centre on multiple occasions.

In mitigation, Soh — who did not have a lawyer — said that he had been having dinner daily with Ms Lye for the past two years. He also admitted that it was “childish” of him to post on social media.

He could have been fined up to S$10,000, jailed up to six months, or both.

Related topics

Covid-19 coronavirus circuit breaker court

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