Thursday, 27 April 2017

Couple who bullied old man at Toa Payoh hawker centre arrested, charged in court and fined S$2,700

Hawker centre quarrel: Couple arrested for causing public nuisance
Arrest of couple in Toa Payoh hawker centre dispute reflects intense public interest in case: Lawyers
By Shaffiq Idris Alkhatib, The Straits Times, 27 Apr 2017

In a move that lawyers said reflected the intense public interest in the case, police have arrested a couple, believed to be the ones seen quarrelling with an older man in a hawker centre, for causing public nuisance.

A video clip of the incident had been posted online, sparking negative reactions.

In a statement, police said officers arrested a 46-year-old man and a 39-year-old woman on Tuesday. They had allegedly used offensive language and force against a 76-year-old man at a hawker centre in Toa Payoh Lorong 8.

Police received reports about the case on Sunday and the couple's identities were established through follow-up investigations.

Investigations are still ongoing.

Lawyers told The Straits Times yesterday that arrests for causing public nuisance are not common.

Mr Raphael Louis from Ray Louis Law said officers could have arrested the couple because the case had attracted a lot of public attention - most of it negative.

"Moreover, the case was between a relatively young couple and an elderly man, who is a vulnerable victim," he added.

Another lawyer, Mr Rajan Supramaniam from Hilborne Law, shared his view. He said: "Causing public nuisance is not a serious offence. However, there has been a lot of public interest in this case and so a warrant was issued for the couple to be arrested after the police conducted their investigation."

Mr Supramaniam said a person convicted of causing public nuisance has performed an act that has annoyed the public or disrupted the public peace. This includes using vulgar language and shouting in public.

Mr Louis said the police will likely consult the Attorney-General's Chambers, which will then decide if the couple should be charged in court.

The online video, lasting a minute or so, showed a woman and an elderly man exchanging words over a table at the hawker centre.

Her companion is later seen walking into the scene and, as he does so, knocking into the older man, who falls against the tabletop.

A woman claiming to be the old man's daughter has hit out at the couple's treatment of her father.

In a Facebook post on Tuesday morning, Ms Caroline Ng said she learnt about the April 21 incident after reading several online posts and watching a video of it.

She wrote: "No words can express my outrage and disgust... What I find unbelievable is for the entire two days, my dad never for once mentioned a word of it."

Those convicted of being a public nuisance can be fined up to $1,000.



** Couple in viral video fined S$2,700 for insulting, abusing elderly man
Couple make emotional apology for behaviour in hawker centre
By Shaffiq Idris Alkhatib, The Straits Times, 12 Aug 2017

The couple caught in a viral video berating an elderly man in a hawker centre in Toa Payoh made an emotional apology yesterday after they were fined for the altercation.

A tearful Tay Puay Leng told reporters outside the courts that she "snapped" on the day of the incident and wished she could apologise in person to Mr Ng Ai Hua.

"I was hoping that I could say sorry to uncle in person. But because the investigations were going on, the police did not allow me to do that," she said.

She added that she had been going through a difficult time being a sole caregiver to her 89-year-old grandmother, who is bedridden.

Her partner Chow Chuin Yee, in turn, said that he hopes everybody can give them a chance, while stressing that there was "no excuse" for his behaviour.

"After watching the video, I feel disgusted with myself," he said.

Tay, 38, a tutor, and Chow, 45, a director at Novel Learning Centre, were fined a total of $2,700 yesterday for their role in the incident that took place on April 21 at the hawker centre in Lorong 8 Toa Payoh.

The case was noteworthy for the prominent role social media played. The incident had been filmed by a patron and posted online - where it circulated widely. A netizen who saw the video made a police report.

Tay was fined $1,200 for using abusive words on the retiree, causing alarm, while Chow was fined $1,500 for using criminal force.

The Malaysian admitted to bumping the 76-year-old Mr Ng forcefully in the back that evening.

One count of behaving in a disorderly manner about five minutes later when he shoved some bowls and plates off a table onto the floor was taken into consideration during sentencing.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Kumaresan Gohulabalan said the couple did not know Mr Ng.

He apparently was carrying a tray of food and had asked to sit at the table that Tay was trying to reserve.

A dispute arose when she refused to let him occupy one of the five seats.

While they argued, she verbally abused him with vulgar language and her harsh words alarmed the retiree, DPP Kumaresan told District Judge Kan Shuk Weng.

He said: "(Tay) also called (Chow) on her mobile phone for assistance, stating, 'Can you come here, one old man tried to take our seats'."

Mr Ng did not notice when Chow, approaching him from the back, barged into him, causing him to fall forward and hold on to the table for support. Mr Ng eventually went to another table.

In mitigation, the couple's lawyer, Mr S. Balamurugan, said Tay had acted "completely out of character" when she verbally abused Mr Ng, and that Chow "very much regrets the embarrassment that he had caused his family, friends and himself".

Before handing out the sentence, Judge Kan told Tay: "The uncle just wanted to sit down and have a peaceful meal. Your ac- tions were unthoughtful and not acceptable."

Mr Ng could not be reached for comment yesterday. His daughter Caroline Ng had said on Facebook that she was outraged by the incident: "No matter who is in the right or wrong, nobody should be treated in this manner, let alone an old folk."

Couple in Toa Payoh hawker centre incident feel 'punished by society', hope to apologise in person to elderly man
Public backlash 'making us live like fugitives'
By Lester Hio, The Sunday Times, 13 Aug 2017

The couple caught in a viral video verbally abusing and shoving an elderly man at a Toa Payoh hawker centre said they believe they have been "punished by society" over the past four months.

Mr Chow Chuin Yee, 45, and Ms Tay Puay Leng, 38, were fined in court on Friday for the use of criminal force and harassment on Mr Ng Ai Hua, 76, in April.

Ms Tay was fined $1,200 for using abusive words on the retiree, causing alarm, while Mr Chow was fined $1,500 for using criminal force.

Asked about comments from netizens that they had got off lightly with a fine, Mr Chow told The Sunday Times yesterday that they have been "living like fugitives" to prevent any further public incidents after facing backlash both online and in public.

Ms Tay, a tutor at Novel Learning Centre, said she sought psychiatric help in June, after she experienced anxiety being in public.

She is still on medication.

Mr Chow, a director at the same centre which provides tuition services, recounted an incident that took place six weeks after the video went viral.

"I took her out to have a meal at a hawker centre. But someone recognised us and started to film us, drawing a lot of attention from other people," said Mr Chow. "We were just queueing up for a meal; it's scary."

He said they have been intimidated too. "One time, this guy purposely stepped backwards while queueing up for food and stepped on my toes, hoping I would pick a fight," he said.

Mr Chow and Ms Tay were thrust into the spotlight after a video captured by a member of the public - showing the couple in a dispute with Mr Ng at the hawker centre in Lorong 8 , Toa Payoh - went viral.

Ms Tay was first seen arguing with Mr Ng, after the retiree approached the table for five, carrying his dinner and seeking to share the table.

Mr Chow, who arrived at the scene after Ms Tay called him, bumped forcefully into Mr Ng's back, causing him to stumble forward. Ms Tay said she was not thinking straight and continues to regret her rash actions. "We rushed to the hawker centre after my classes as I just needed a quick meal before going home to take care of my grandmother."

She said she had been taking care of her 89-year-old grandmother, who suffers from dementia, for the past 10 years. "At that time, she was just discharged from hospital after being warded for about a week and was not very stable. In fact, we were asleep when the video went viral because I was back at the A&E with my grandmother ."

The incident put the spotlight on "choping" culture and civil behaviour. The role of social media also figured prominently in the case, especially when another woman was wrongly identified as Ms Tay, leading to online witch-hunts against a different woman.

Acknowledging that their actions were "shameful, selfish and appalling", the couple sought to make amends to Mr Ng.

Both of them wrote a page-long letter each to Mr Ng, dated April 26 - five days after the incident on April 21 - where they apologised to him and asked for a chance to do so as well in person. They passed the notes to the investigating officer.

Mr Ng and his daughter, who had posted on Facebook recounting the incident, did not reply to queries from The Sunday Times.

His daughter Caroline wrote in a post in April: "The only reason we decided to step forward... is to bring public awareness that such (an) act should never be tolerated, to serve as a voice for those who are victimised by similar situations and to prevent such things from happening again."

The couple would like the chance to apologise to Mr Ng in person if possible. Ms Tay said: "I've offered to volunteer at the eldercare centre my grandmother used to go to."

Elderly man at centre of Toa Payoh hawker centre shoving incident just wants to forgive and forget
Retiree accepts couple's apologies but says he does not wish to meet them in person
By Sue-Ann Tan, The Straits Times, 14 Aug 2017

The couple who shouted at him are around his own children's ages.

And if Mr Chow Chuin Yee, 45, and Ms Tay Puay Leng, 38, were really his children, Mr Ng Ai Hua would have taken them to task.

"I would scold them for quarrelling over a seat," he said.

As it is, the 76-year-old man who was shoved by Mr Chow at the Toa Payoh Lorong 8 hawker centre on April 21 now just wants to move on.

In an interview with The Straits Times last night at his home in Ang Mo Kio, Mr Ng - who is also known as Ivor Ng - said that he accepts the couple's apologies, but does not wish to see them in person.

"The couple have received their punishment and life can move on," he said. "It is all water under the bridge now. I just hope it can be a lesson to them."

Mr Ng, a retiree who used to work in the construction industry in a technical role, has two children, aged 42 and 38. On the evening of the incident nearly four months ago, he was getting ready to have his dinner alone at the hawker centre. He bought a bowl of noodles and looked for a seat.

An umbrella was placed at a nearby table for five, and he asked Ms Tay how many people she was reserving the seats for, he recounted. She hurled vulgarities at him and Mr Chow hurried over and bumped forcefully against him, causing him to stumble.

Videos of the incident went viral, and a hunt to find the couple commenced.

Four days later, the pair were arrested. Last Friday, they were fined.

In an interview with The Sunday Times, Mr Chow and Ms Tay said they regretted their actions and wanted to apologise to Mr Ng in person. They also said they felt "punished by society" and felt like they were living like "fugitives".

To Mr Ng, the punishment that the couple faced was not just the fines meted out by the court, but the excoriation they received online and even in person.

"Because of what has happened, they are shamed and they can hardly show their faces in public," he said. "I leave it to people to judge them."

He added that he does not blame the public for the outcry. "People saw it and felt upset. They saw that the couple had gone too far."

Mr Ng, who has a Facebook account, did not follow the online discussions himself because they were "endless" and he knew what had happened well enough.

"All I wanted was a seat so I could eat my bowl of noodles," he recalled. "It is a public place and there is free seating. I was polite and courteous. I didn't want any trouble.

"I felt disgusted by what happened and I felt the man behaved in a very ungentlemanly manner by ramming me from behind," Mr Ng said. "At least he should face me."

He was not injured in the incident. The table in front of Mr Ng prevented him from falling over.

As for the "choping" culture here, Mr Ng feels it is "silly", and actions like placing a tissue paper packet on a seat leave room for ambiguity. "People don't know if someone else accidentally left the tissue paper behind or if they are even going to return to the seat they reserved."

Now, Mr Ng wants to close the chapter. "If they are sincere and really regret their actions, then people will know. But if it is an act, people can also judge. Life is like that."

He added: "This is a bad experience for me, but there are all kinds of people in the world. What has happened has happened, and I want it to be over now."


* Couple in Toa Payoh hawker centre dispute charged
By Elena Chong, Court Correspondent, The Straits Times, 16 Jun 2017

The couple who allegedly verbally and physically abused an elderly man over a table at a hawker centre in Toa Payoh were charged in court yesterday.

Tutor Tay Puay Leng alias Zheng Peiling, 38, was charged with using abusive words on Mr Ng Ai Hua alias Ivor Ng with intent to cause alarm at about 8.35pm at the Lorong 8 hawker centre on April 21.

Her husband, Malaysian Chow Chuin Yee, 45, a director of a tuition centre, was accused of using criminal force on the 76-year-old by using his body to forcefully barge into the victim in the back. About five minutes later, he allegedly shoved some bowls and plates off the table onto the ground.

A video that went viral showed a woman, who was dressed in white, shouting at an elderly man before her male companion shoved the man from behind. The video, which was posted on Facebook on April 23, was shared extensively, with netizens expressing disgust at the couple's behaviour.

Police arrested them on April 25. They were out on police bail of $10,000 each, pending investigation. Their lawyer, Mr S. Balamurugan, told the court yesterday that he had just been briefed.

He asked for time to make representations to the Attorney-General's Chambers.

The couple's case will be mentioned again on July 12.

If convicted of causing alarm, Tay could be fined up to $5,000 and/or jailed for up to six months.

The maximum penalty for using criminal force is three months in jail and a $1,500 fine, and for disorderly behaviour, a $2,000 fine and six months in jail.


Online 'CSI' vigilantes: The good, the bad and the ugly
By Melissa Lin, The Sunday Times, 30 Apr 2017

They lurk online, ready to pounce.

Once a target has been identified, they trawl through various social media sites to ferret out whatever details they can get and publish it.

Such is how online vigilantes - who pride themselves on executing "social justice" - work.

In the latest episode, the "investigation" went badly wrong. A bank, a woman and her boyfriend had their names dragged through the mud when keyboard warriors wrongly identified them as being connected to the abuse of an old man.

Experts say such vigilantism or virtual lynching, where netizens take it upon themselves to exact justice, will only rise, fuelled by the proliferation of recording devices, social media and a sense that the authorities may not take adequate action.

Last Sunday, a video uploaded on Facebook showed a woman and a man quarrelling with an older man at a hawker centre in Toa Payoh.The police stepped in later, arresting the pair, but some netizens had already taken matters into their own hands.

In forums and on Facebook, they claimed that the couple worked at the United Overseas Bank's (UOB) Toa Payoh branch and posted photos allegedly of them. Some threatened to close their UOB accounts if the bank did not fire the pair.

It forced UOB to issue a statement refuting the allegations, while the woman wrongly identified as the one in the video filed a police report. In a Facebook post, Ms Cherry Tan, 22, clarified that she is a full-time student who has never worked at a bank, and thanked her family and friends for standing by her.

And in a twist, a man who repeated the false claims on a Facebook thread was himself "CSI-ed" - a term inspired by the TV series Crime Scene Investigation.

On at least one forum, netizens posted information about his workplace and photos of him.

It is hard to pinpoint who these "CSI-ers" are, how big the group is, and why they do what they do.

"The motives could be many and complex," said social media expert Michael Netzley from Singapore Management University.

"Perceptions of fairness are a deep and powerful human motivator," he added. "People may enjoy the feeling of accomplishment of being the one who solves, or helps solve, the puzzle of identity. Others may wish to show how clever they are."

CSI-ers often work with incomplete information - in the Toa Payoh case, the video was just over a minute long and the footage was blurry - and the danger of misidentification is real. Even if the truth surfaces later, the damage has already been done, said social media lawyer Lionel Tan of law firm Rajah & Tann. "Even if the wrong identification is corrected, by the very nature of the Internet, it will be very difficult to remove all mention and association with the incident."

But there is an upside: In this case, online vigilantism "helped to catalyse enforcement action by the police", as it set in motion a wave of moral outrage at what happened, said National University of Singapore media studies instructor Gui Kai Chong. Lawyers had said officers may have made the arrest because of the attention it received.

Mr Tan said victims of online vigilantes can turn to the Prevention from Harassment Act if the vigilantism borders on harassment. Incorrectly identified individuals "have strong grounds to seek recourse for defamation and retraction of the wrong identification", he added.

Dr Netzley said: "Any time you create an online profile or post, you should always assume that it can be seen by the entire world... That is the cold truth about the world we live in."


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