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Woman fined S$3,000 for attending 15-person Chinese New Year gathering in 2021

SINGAPORE — A woman was fined S$3,000 on Wednesday (Jan 26) for attending a Chinese New Year gathering of 15 people last year, almost double the maximum number of persons allowed for a social gathering at that time.

The police received a call at about 2am about suspicious activity at an office space in February 2021 and found people drinking alcohol and singing karaoke, in violation of Covid-19 regulations.
The police received a call at about 2am about suspicious activity at an office space in February 2021 and found people drinking alcohol and singing karaoke, in violation of Covid-19 regulations.
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SINGAPORE — A woman was fined S$3,000 on Wednesday (Jan 26) for attending a Chinese New Year gathering of 15 people last year, almost double the maximum number of persons allowed for a social gathering at that time.

Sun Min Qian, a 33-year-old China national, pleaded guilty to one charge of breaching Covid-19 regulations on social gatherings, with another similar charge taken into consideration during sentencing.

The event happened on Feb 25 last year at an office space along Pemimpin Drive off Marymount Road. The tenant of the premises, Ong Hui Siong, 39, had decided to host a gathering among his friends.

The 15 attendees engaged in activities including drinking alcohol and singing karaoke.

At the time of the incident, Singapore was in the third phase of its reopening after a semi-lockdown and there was a cap of eight persons for each social gathering.

At about 2am, the police received a call about suspicious activity at the office space. Officers arrived at the scene and heard loud music, then knocked on the door before Ong answered.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Emily Koh sought a fine of S$3,000 or a default jail term of 10 days for Sun on Wednesday. At least seven others who had attended the gathering were handed the same fine last year.

She highlighted that the group had gathered for “frivolous reasons” and were so noisy to the extent that the police were called.

She drew attention to the degree of proximity of the people present at the gathering, as well as the nature of the activities such as drinking and singing karaoke, which involved a relatively higher risk of coronavirus transmission.

In mitigation, defence lawyer Jeffery Lau of Lau & Company said that Sun was relatively new to Singapore at the time of the offence, having arrived two months before the gathering.

While he conceded that ignorance of the law is not a mitigating factor, he pointed out that Sun was less aware of the prevailing Covid-19 regulations in Singapore. She was also less familiar with the ride-hailing services here, which would have made it difficult for her to leave the gathering that had dragged on until the wee hours of the morning.

He also said that before reaching the place, Sun initially had no idea that she was headed for a large social gathering. She was invited by co-accused Ethan Tan, a man she had romantic interest in, for what she thought was a dinner for a small group.

Mr Lau added that Sun later fell victim to a scam and incurred a loss of about S$80,000.

He pleaded for leniency from the court due to her financial situation and sought a lower fine of S$1,000 as opposed to S$1,500.

In delivering his decision, District Judge Lim Wen Juin said that he found it difficult to find a distinction between Sun’s case and that of the other co-accused.

He also said that while two months was a relatively short period of time, he found it "hard to believe" that the accused was not familiar with the basic Covid-19 regulations in Singapore by then.

Similarly, the judge said, she would have also been familiar with the transport system here and would have had ample opportunity to leave the gathering had she wanted to do so, given that she was present for five hours before the police arrived.

For flouting Covid-19 regulations, Sun could have been jailed up to six months or fined up to S$10,000, or both.

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