Judge: Amos Yee trapped in the Net
Judge sentences teen blogger to four weeks' jail
Going on the Internet from a young age, Amos Yee Pang Sang thinks he has complete freedom of expression without responsibility, is overconfident and has little regard for the feelings of others.
In sentencing Yee to four weeks' jail yesterday, District Judge Jasvender Kaur mentioned these points, which were highlighted in an Institute of Mental Health (IMH) report on the teenage blogger.
"The report makes the observation that from an early age, he has been trapped in the Net," she said.
"It states that due to his young age and inexperience, he is unable to discern the untruths in cyberspace and believes that one has complete freedom of expression without any responsibility."
The 16-year-old was convicted on May 12 for insulting Christians in a blog post and distributing an obscene image of former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew and former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher after a two-day trial. (See timeline.)
The report, based on interviews with Yee, also noted that having achieved early fame and success, he "shows scant regard to the feelings of others and focuses on his needs most of the time".
It recommended that Yee, who had dropped out of school, continue with his formal education so he can socialise with others his age, and that he and his family attend counselling to improve their relationship.
He also has much to learn about making decisions wisely and how to keep his behaviour within the law.
And he will benefit from having a mentor or counsellor to guide him, the report said.
Earlier during the hearing, Yee's lawyer, Mr Alfred Dodwell, told the court that his client had agreed to go through counselling and be mentored by Dr Y.C. Lim, the principal psychiatrist at Raffles Hospital.
Calling it a "long journey for all the parties involved", he said his client has had a change in attitude.
The IMH report quoted Yee as saying that he was willing to admit to his guilt and not reoffend as he realised what he had done was against the law and could disrupt social cohesion.
This was also noted by Deputy Public Prosecutor Hay Hung Chun, who called it a "seismic change in attitude".
The prosecution also changed its previous stance of calling for reformative training and asked for a one-day jail term instead.
During sentencing, Judge Kaur said it was significant that Yee had promised not to reoffend.
"Whilst the particular offences are not the most serious offences, they are not trivial," she said.
Turning to Yee, she asked him to rethink his decision not to continue with formal education.
"There are a few (school) dropout success stories but they are the very lucky few. For the large portion of us, (dropping out of school) would be foolhardy," she said.
Noting that it was his first conviction, the judge said that reformative training would not be necessary.
She sentenced him to three weeks' jail for wounding religious feelings and one week's jail for disseminating an obscene image. The four weeks were backdated to June 2 when he was taken into remand.
This meant that he could be released yesterday, prompting claps and cheers from the public gallery.
Mr Dodwell later told reporters that Yee would be appealing against both his sentence and conviction.
Yee's father, Mr Alphonsus Yee, told reporters that he was happy his son would be released so the family could seek help together.
At about 5.20pm, more than two hours after the hearing ended, the teenager walked out of court accompanied by his parents.
Wearing a dark blue T-shirt that was tucked into baggy shorts, he clutched a bag and stayed close to his mother.
He declined to speak to the media.
Trailed by a number of social activists and the media, the family was unable to get a taxi.
As they walked towards Chinatown, one of his supporters told the media to back off because "(Amos is) obviously upset".
There are a few (school) dropout success stories but they are the very lucky few. For the large portion of us, (dropping out of school) would be foolhardy.
- District Judge Jasvender Kaur advising Amos Yee to continue with his formal education
Blogger Amos Yee Pang Sang, 16, posts a video clip containing offensive remarks against Christianity.
He electronically transmits an obscene image of Singapore's late founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew and former British PM Margaret Thatcher.
Yee is charged in court for the two incidents and offered bail of $20,000. His parents bail him out. The conditions for bail include not posting, uploading or distributing anything online while his case is ongoing.
Yee breaches the bail conditions. He is again offered bail of $20,000 but his parents decide not to bail him out. He is placed in remand.
Three lawyers, Mr Alfred Dodwell, Mr Chong Jia Hao and Mr Ervin Tan, step up to represent Yee pro bono.
He is released on $20,000 bail put up by youth and family counsellor Vincent Law, 51.
A stranger, later identified as Neo Gim Huah, 49, slaps Yee as the teenager is heading to court for his pre-trial conference. Yee is found to have breached his bail conditions and ends up back in remand. Mr Law discharges himself as his bailor.
Yee's two-day trial begins.
Neo is jailed three weeks for slapping Yee.
District Judge Jasvender Kaur convicts Yee of the two charges against him and calls for a report to assess his suitability for probation. He is offered $10,000 bail and his parents bail him out.
In an expletive-laden Facebook post, Yee accuses Mr Law of molesting him. His former bailor denies the accusation. Later that day, Yee comes clean in another post, admitting that Mr Law had not molested him and he was just messing with the media.
Yee misses a scheduled interview with a probation officer.
An urgent hearing is convened at the State Courts after it is discovered that Yee had reposted the offensive content for which he was convicted.
He is taken into remand to assess his suitability for reformative training.
The United Nations Human Rights Office for South-east Asia calls for Yee's immediate release.
Yee is ordered to be remanded for two weeks at the Institute of Mental Health for psychiatric evaluation on the suitability of a Mandatory Treatment Order.
About 60 people demonstrate outside the Singapore Trade Office in Taiwan, calling for Yee's release.
About 60 students demonstrate outside the Singapore consulate in Hong Kong, calling for Yee's release.
An open letter signed by 77 people, expressing concerns about the way the State has treated Yee, is sent to the Prime Minister.
About 500 people turn up at a Hong Lim Park event, organised by local non-governmental organisation Community Action Network, to rally for Yee's release.
Yee is sentenced to four weeks' jail. As he has spent some 50 days in remand and his sentence was backdated to June 2, he walks out a free man.
From a smile to a scowl in 61 days
What a difference 61 days make.
The Amos Yee who appeared in court yesterday seemed pale, frail and subdued.
I first saw him in the High Court on May 6 during a bail hearing just before his two-day trial.
Walking into court, he smiled broadly at the public gallery, where his mother and supporters were seated.
Throughout the bail hearing, he constantly turned and grinned at the gallery, actively followed proceedings and even managed a small wave before being taken away.
Then there was the confident swagger on May 12 after he was released on bail after his conviction, when he told reporters outside the State Courts: "I don't know if I should celebrate my release or mourn my sentence."
And who can forget the middle finger directed at the media outside the court on June 2, just before he was taken into remand to be assessed for reformative training?
Yesterday, he barely looked up at his supporters who clapped as he was taken into the courtroom.
Throughout the proceedings, Yee, who was in prison garb of a white T-shirt, brown pants and slippers, sat in the dock with his head down, hands and legs restrained, his frizzy hair barely covering his face.
Not only did he not turn or wave, he did not even smile at his parents sitting mere metres away.
As several retirees in the gallery cheered for him after it transpired that he would be a free man yesterday, nary a glance was made in their direction.
When Yee walked out of the State Courts at 5.20pm, wearing a T-shirt tucked into his shorts and accompanied by his parents, he held onto his mother, a scowl etched on his face, head kept low.
Later, he clutched a bag to his chest and kept his eyes straight and low, a far cry from the boy who previously basked in the attention from the media and his supporters.
- ELIZABETH LAW