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Woman in viral MBS video charged with not wearing face mask outside court, breaching stay-home notice

SINGAPORE — A 53-year-old woman who gained notoriety for refusing to wear a face mask at Marina Bay Sands (MBS) returned to court on Tuesday (May 25) to face six new criminal charges, including failing to have a mask on outside the State Courts on Monday.

Woman in viral MBS video charged with not wearing face mask outside court, breaching stay-home notice

Phoon Chiu Yoke arriving at the State Courts on May 24, 2021.

  • Phoon Chiu Yoke returned to Singapore from Scotland on June 28, 2020
  • The 53-year-old Singaporean was placed on stay-home notice in a hotel but left without a mask
  • She arrived at court on Monday not wearing a mask and put one on only after being told to do so by a security guard
  • In court on Tuesday, she claimed she had been unaware of the requirement to wear a mask
  • She has been remanded at the Institute of Mental Health for assessment

 

SINGAPORE — A 53-year-old woman who gained notoriety for refusing to wear a face mask at Marina Bay Sands (MBS) returned to court on Tuesday (May 25) to face six new criminal charges, including failing to have a mask on outside the State Courts on Monday.

Phoon Chiu Yoke had turned up at court not wearing a mask on Monday for what was meant to be the first day of a trial. When prompted by a security guard, she put one on before entering the court building.

She was set to contest a single charge of failing to wear a mask at all times at Newton Hawker Centre on May 8 last year. However, the trial was adjourned pending further investigations into more alleged offences.

She was then photographed taking her mask off and smiling at photographers after leaving the State Courts building.

The police later arrested her on Tuesday.

She appeared in court through a video-link from the Central Police Division, with her blue disposable mask covering only her mouth and not her nose.

District Judge Adam Nakhoda ordered her to be remanded at the Institute of Mental Health for two weeks for psychiatric assessment.

Before that, she asked to be released on bail and placed on a two-week stay-home notice, saying she was an “ex-naval officer” and had “good conduct for the rest of my history”.

“I am not familiar with this new legislation that requires me to wear a mask in public,” she added.

“I returned from Scotland from holiday for six to seven weeks and I have never heard of this regulation to put on a mask… I have never read any information required to wear a mask and that’s why I didn’t do so.

“For the more recent cases, I was still not aware of these Covid-19 regulations until I was informed on May 15 (at MBS).”

She added that she tried to abide by the regulations but found it “very abnormal”, claiming that she then sometimes forgot to take a mask with her or put it on.

“I’d like to state that none of these breaches were done intentionally. I have very little information about these regulations and I’ve never seen any campaign or advertisement that asks their citizens to wear a mask,” she told the court.

After the judge rejected her arguments, she asked for an “exemption” from the IMH remand.

She will return to court on June 8.

Her new charges comprise five counts of failing to wear a mask on separate occasions, and one under the Infectious Diseases Act of exposing others to the risk of infection by violating her stay-home notice when she returned from the United Kingdom.

The Singaporean came back here from the UK on June 28, the police and the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) said in a press release.

She had allegedly left her MBS hotel room during the stay-home notice period — June 28 to July 12 last year — on several occasions while not wearing a mask, they added.

She was further charged with failing to wear a mask at these locations:

  • At Clarke Quay Central shopping mall along Eu Tong Sen Street on Dec 2 last year

  • At MBS mall on May 15

  • At Bras Basah Complex along Bain Street on May 18

  • Outside the State Courts on May 24

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If convicted under Covid-19 laws, Phoon could be jailed for up to six months or fined up to S$10,000, or both, for each charge.

The authorities said that investigations are ongoing and that the police had interviewed her on May 15 over the MBS incident, but she reoffended.

Phoon first made headlines when video clips of what appeared to be the purported incidents began circulating on social media and messaging applications.

In a video taken at MBS, Phoon can be heard questioning a safe distancing ambassador: "If you have no badge, why are you asking me to do something? Who are you representing?"

Phoon had allegedly entered the mall without wearing a mask despite repeated advice from the safe distancing ambassador to do so.

“Members of the public are advised to take the prevailing safe distancing measures seriously. Safe distancing ambassadors and enforcement officers have been working hard to keep our community safe,” the police and ICA said.

Related topics

safe distancing face mask MBS Covid-19 court

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