Lenient Sentences For Certain Criminals
Singapore is safe, but it isn’t crime free — harsh punishments need to be meted out to those who break the law to achieve the safety that we’re known for.
But do you feel that sometimes certain people are given punishments that are too lenient to reflect the severity of their crimes?
It has been perceived that these lucky people exist, and they happen to have something different from most of us — more money, or a foreign passport, or both.
So we’ve gone through the history books to bring you 10 cases whereby people were handed sentences that were regarded as kinda charitable, especially considering the harm they did.
And it’s difficult not to notice that these people all seem to have something a little different from most Singaporeans.
Here’s a collection of 10 cases that have confused Singaporeans.
1. The Paedophile MMA Instructor
American mixed martial arts (MMA) instructor and full-time paedophile Joshua Robinson was thrown behind bars for 4 years after being found guilty on 9 charges, with 20 taken into consideration.
His crime? He sexually assaulted two 15-year-old girls and showed an obscene video to a 6-year-old girl.
Singaporean Benjamin Sim wasn’t as fortunate though. His sexual offences against a set of 13-year-old twins and two other underaged girls earned him a 20.5-year stay in prison.
To add injury to insult, he was set for a good hiding in jail — 24 strokes of the cane to be exact. Josh Robinson, on the other hand, was spared the cane.
Is this what they call white privilege?
Let’s compare the cases of the two paedophiles, which we did in our story on Josh Robinson and Benjamin Sim:
|Josh Robinson||Benjamin Sim|
Former lead Artist at LucasFilm
Former modelling supervisor at Double Negative
|Number of Victims||3||4|
|Age of Victims||15, 15 and 6||13, 13, 13 and 11|
|Number of Charges||9 charges, with 20 taken into consideration||8 charges, with 15 taken into consideration|
|Types of Charges||
|Number of Strokes of the Cane||0||24|
Unsurprisingly, there was a massive backlash from the public over the lenient sentence.
The public disquiet prompted the Attorney-General’s Chambers to explain the sentencing for Josh Robinson’s case, clarifying that as both victims were above the age of 14 and gave consent to the sexual acts, Josh Robinson “did not commit sexual assault”. The Public Prosecutor decided not to appeal the sentence.
Even Minister for Law and Home Affairs K. Shanmugam gave his two cents’ worth on the case at the time, and he also recently said that the Ministry of Home Affairs is reviewing whether punishments for sex crimes against minors and offences related to child porn should be raised.
2. The City Harvest Church 6
Pastor Kong Hee of City Harvest Church, whom even God apologised to, and 5 other church leaders were found guilty of misappropriating millions in church funds for bogus investments to support his wife’s music career.
Despite prosecutors calling for harsher sentences on them for betraying the trust of church members, their jail sentences were somehow reduced on appeal instead:
|CHC Member||Original Sentence||Reduced Sentence|
|Kong Hee, 52||8 years||3 years, 5 months|
|Chew Eng Han, 56||6 years||3 years, 4 months|
|Tan Ye Peng, 44||5 years, 6 months||3 years, 2 months|
|Serina Wee, 40||5 years||2 years, 6 months|
|John Lam, 49||3 years||1 years, 6 months|
|Sharon Tan, 41||21 months||7 months|
Netizens weren’t happy with the cut in jail time:
As a comparison, The Straits Times reported this week that a woman was jailed for 2 years and 9 months for misappropriating $184,213 from Takashimaya — a small fraction of the $50 million misappropriated by the City Harvest 6, but a sentence of just a few months less than Kong Hee.
3. The Belgian Who Killed His Son
Belgian expatriate Philippe Graffart did what many people would never contemplate doing in a million years — he killed his own flesh and blood.
The Asia-Pacific head of fund distribution for Nordea Bank suffocated his 5-year-old son with a pillow, moments after feeding him two sleeping pills, reported Channel NewsAsia.
After the despicable deed was carried out, the Belgian attempted suicide, and later confessed his crime to the police.
Typically, anyone found guilty of murder in Singapore would be handed a mandatory death sentence — but Philippe Graffart was sentenced to just 5 year’s jail.
He was judged to be suffering from severe depression whilst locked in a bitter child custody battle with his estranged wife.
He was sentenced on a reduced charge of culpable homicide instead of murder, which spared him the gallows and a heavy sentence.
4. The Chinese National Who Killed His Wife
38-year-old truck driver Zheng Xianghua mercilessly stabbed his wife, Madam Wang Xueyan, repeatedly after suspecting she was cheating on him with her supervisor.
Zheng smelled a rat after noticing his wife started wearing make-up and receiving compliments at work.
The couple, both Chinese nationals, lived apart as it was supposedly more convenient to travel to their respective workplaces.
On Dec 16, Madam Wang paid Zheng a visit that resulted in her death. A quarrel broke out, with Zheng repeatedly stabbing her with a knife. It was the same knife he had bought two days ago and the one he wanted to use to confront her supervisor. Woefully, he used it to kill his wife instead.
He then sat on the parapet between the 8th and 9th floors at a nearby block after slashing and stabbing himself. Police officers took hours to coax him down.
Here’s the bloody aftermath of the whole saga:
Just like Phillipe Graffart, a psychiatrist diagnosed Zheng with severe depression and pathological jealousy.
He pleaded guilty to culpable homicide not amounting to murder and received a 9-year jail term, The Straits Times reported.
5. The Woman Who Stomped Her Boyfriend To Death
Another crime of passion, this time resulting in the man’s death.
A quarrel between a couple soon turned deadly after the woman, a 43-year-old Thai national, literally stomped her 55-year-old Singaporean boyfriend to death.
Sukanya Praphuttha, a permanent resident, had used her right foot to stomp on the left side of her boyfriend’s head after a row escalated in their flat. Mr Lee Yang Boo accused his girlfriend of engaging in sexual activities with a stranger after seeing her dance with him at a nightclub.
A total of 47 bruises were found all over his body, with his skull suffering fractures. Mr Lee, who was 10kg lighter than his girlfriend, was pronounced dead from a head injury.
Initially charged with murder, her charge was lessened to that of culpable homicide, and she was given a 5.5-year jail sentence, reported The Straits Times.
She was not deemed to be suffering from any psychological disorder.
6. The Rich Couple Who Abused Their Maid
As if the life of a maid isn’t tough enough, 47-year-old couple Lim Choon Hong (left) and Chong Sui Foon (right) inexplicably thought it was necessary to make life even harsher for their 40-year-old Filipino helper.
Despite living in the Boulevard Residence on Cuscaden Walk, an atas condo near Orchard Road whose units sell for millons, the couple provided Ms Thelma Oyasan Gawidan with just two meals a day, reported The Straits Times.
Her first meal, given at the ungodly hour of around 1am to 2am, consisted of two to three slices of white bread and one to two packets of instant noodles.
Her second meal would come in the late mornings or early afternoons, comprising five to six slices of white bread.
She had to seek permission whenever she wanted to drink water, and was only allowed to shower once to twice a week — in full view of Chong.
The abuse she received caused her hair to fall out and menstrual cycle to stop.
Within a span of 15 months, her weight had plummeted from 49kg to a staggering 29kg.
The couple pleaded guilty to their crimes and were jailed and fined on March 27.
Despite putting their maid through hell for over a year, their sentences were minuscule. Lim Choon Hong was sentenced to just three weeks’ jail and fined $10,000 while his wife was jailed for three months.
7. The Maid Who Stole
In this case, the maid, 34-year-old Yati Nurmala Karjo Jumhandi from Indonesia, was the criminal. She stole $24,000 from her employer over a 5-month period.
The stolen money funded her top-up cards, a watch, clothing and was also remitted to Indonesia, reported The Straits Times.
She confessed to three charges of theft, with another seven charges taken into consideration. She could have been jailed for up to seven years and fined on each charge, but was subsequently only handed a 5-month jail sentence.
This was a stark contrast to another theft case carried out by a Singaporean.
40-year-old Noraizam Abdullah pilfered $32 from a donation box in a mosque out of desperation. He was jobless, poor and had a wheelchair-bound mother to care for.
He pleaded guilty and was slapped with a 1-year jail sentence, reported AsiaOne.
8. The Telco Boss’ Son Who Stole And Forged
Briton Alexander Montefiore, whose father Neil Montefiore went on to become Starhub’s chief executive, avoided jail time and was only required to pay a fine despite being found guilty of theft and forgery.
Formerly a sales trader of Cantor Fitzgerald, Alexander Montefiore stole $13,000 from his managing director, Mr William Louis Selig, by using his DBS debit card.
He also forged an employment letter from the company, changing his annual salary from US$45,000 to US$100,000.
He was fined $23,000 for his misdeed — no small sum, but we think he would have have no problems coughing up the cash, since his father was also chief executive of M1.
9. The Four Who Robbed A Money Changer
A Chilean and three Mexicans filched $120,000 from a money changer in Mustafa Centre, reported The Straits Times.
The four of them, aged between 30 to 59, arrived in Singapore with the sole purpose of carrying out the heist. Each of them had specific roles to play to ensure the plan progressed smoothly.
Everything was going according to plan until their bubble was burst in Kuala Lumpur. On Aug 21, they were arrested by Malaysian police while trying to board a plane to Hong Kong.
They were jailed between 20 and 22 months.
Let’s do a quick recap of the 4 theft cases we have mentioned so far:
- Indonesian maid sentenced to 5 months in prison for stealing $24,000
- Briton fined $23,000 and given no jail term for forgery and theft of $13,000.
- Four foreigners jailed between 20 and 22 months for stealing $120,000.
- Jobless Singaporean man jailed for 1 year for stealing $32 from a mosque.
Hmm, considering the amount of money these people stole, and the sentences meted out, the Singaporean man definitely got the short end of the stick.
10. The New Zealander Who Attacked A Man
Lastly, we have the case of New Zealander Stefan Paul Afendoulis, who is rich and a foreigner.
While others were devouring their burgers and fries, two men were involved in a petty skirmish at Safra Yishun McDonald’s back in 2014.
Mr Toh Peng Hwee accidentally bumped into Afendoulis. That was all it took to light the New Zealander’s fuse, and he grappled Mr Toh’s neck before holding him against a wall.
Afendoulis even knocked Mr Toh’s head against the wall repeatedly for good measure, according to The Straits Times.
He only stopped after bystanders and his own wife yelled at him.
Showing no remorse, he also claimed arrogantly that he was “rich” and would hire a lawyer to defend his case.
In the end, he had to pay a whooping $57 to Mr Toh for his medical expenses and a $2,500 fine for causing hurt.
The maximum penalty for causing hurt is two year’s jail and a $5,000 fine.
Crime And Punishment
The perceived inconsistency in jail sentences meted out to foreigners and rich people compared with those given to the average Singaporean has many up in arms.
Some people would even say that foreigners and the rich have an easier time when facing the music over their crimes.
But then again all this is purely speculation — if we don’t trust the court to uphold justice impartially, how are we going to sleep at night?