Teen gets jail for contempt of court
He was cocky, bold and defiant in court last month.
His arrogance prompted District Judge Lim Keng Yeow to charge him with contempt of court. He was sentenced to seven days' jail yesterday.
Pierre Chng Yuheng was also fined $4,500 after Judge Lim found him guilty of two counts of criminal intimidation against his then-landlady, Madam Khoo Kim Cheng, in May 2013.
Chng, who was not represented by a lawyer, showed scant respect when he took the stand in court on Feb 4.
The 19-year-old full-time national serviceman crossed his arms, glared at the ceiling and refused to answer the prosecution's questions.
Chng's loud response to almost every query would be: "This court proceeding is grossly biased and prejudiced. This is malicious prosecution. This is persecution.
"I have judicial rights. I demand a change of court, judge and DPP (Deputy Public Prosecutor)."
Yesterday, he was a different man. In place of the terror, there was only tears after sentencing. (See report on facing page). The contempt of court charge stated that, on Feb 4, Chng had "scandalised the court", challenged its dignity and authority, and "adversely affected the administration of justice".
Chng had said last month that the court was prejudiced and biased against him and that the proceedings were a sham.
Judge Lim told Chng yesterday: "While in the witness box under cross-examination, instead of providing relevant answers to the questions posed... (you) persisted in repeating your challenges to the proceedings and insisting that you (would) not cooperate.
"(You) persisted in addressing representatives of the media directly, stating things that were irrelevant to the questions asked, despite being told by the court that you were not to do so and to direct your answers to the court."
Judge Lim said that contempt proceedings may begin either during or after the trial, according to the discretion of the judge, and without warning to the offender.
He said he saw no reason to treat Chng's relatively young age as a mitigating factor.
"Given his age, I would have expected a greater degree of respect for authority and the court. Not less.
"I make clear that I am not treating his youthfulness as an aggravating factor; I merely see no reason to regard that as mitigating."
The judge also noted that Chng had earlier admitted in court that he lacked knowledge of court processes and the law.
Because of this, the judge said that he would have expected Chng to be more willing to abide by the directions of the court and display humility - rather than have "an air of arrogance".
Judge Lim stressed that Chng's jail sentence for contempt should serve as a warning to others, especially those who are not represented by lawyers when they appear in court.
He said: "They are expected and required to conduct themselves appropriately in court, in a manner that shows respect for the dignity of judicial processes and the authority of the court.
"The court will not ignore acts of contempt and will see to it that such acts be punished, especially where they are persistent and where the (offender) refuses to acknowledge the gravity of his conduct and refuses to make an apology."
For contempt of court, Chng could have been jailed up to six months and fined up to $2,000.
Given his age, I would have expected a greater degree of respect for authority and the court. Not less. I make clear that I am not treating his youthfulness as an aggravating factor; I merely see no reason to regard that as mitigating.
- Judge Lim Keng Yeow
He cried in the dock
He sat dumbstruck in the dock after the judge sentenced him for his offences.
It was a far cry from the intimidating demeanour while confronting his former landlady in May 2013, and his arrogance in court last month.
Full-time national serviceman Pierre Chng Yuheng, 19, had been found guilty of two counts of criminal intimidation, for which he was fined $4,500.
Then came the surprise conviction of contempt of court - and the seven-day jail sentence.
Chng, whose family members were not in court yesterday, then took out his mobile phone and spoke to his mother, Ms Chng Leng Khim.
He appeared to be trying his best to control his tears. But he soon turned emotional.
His voice cracked and the tears flowed when he told his mother to be strong.
While waiting to submit his application to file an appeal, he was overheard telling his mother: "Cry it off tonight. Be strong tomorrow.
"I want the family to be strong. I will be out and I will see you soon. I love you."
He spoke to her for more than 30 minutes - reassuring the single mother that he would be fine.
After he hung up, a police officer slapped a pair of handcuffs on him. He was seen sitting slumped in the dock.
Chng, who did not have a lawyer, later filed an appeal against all three charges.
He also asked for the sentences to be suspended until after the appeal.
But District Judge Lim Keng Yeow only granted a stay of execution on the criminal intimidation charges.
This means Chng will have to serve his jail term for the contempt charge.
His bail pending appeal was also increased from $2,000 to $5,000.
Cry it off tonight. Be strong tomorrow. I want the family to be strong. I will be out and I will see you soon. I love you.
- Pierre Chng Yuheng to his mother
ABOUT THE CASE
His family used to rent a part of a house at Paya Lebar Crescent, owned by Madam Khoo Kim Cheng.
But the tenant-landlord relationship soured after his family repeatedly failed to pay the rent.
On one occasion in May 2013, Pierre Chng Yuheng, 19, used a tree branch to threaten Madam Khoo who went to the house with a technician to do some repairs.
The court had heard that part of the property, known as Studio Two, was rented out to the Chngs from Feb 1, 2013 to Jan 31 last year.
Chng, his mother, Ms Chng Leng Khim, his sister Carmen Chng Jiawen, 18, and their 13-year-old brother lived in the unit.
Under the tenancy agreement, the rent of $1,500 a month had to be paid on the first day of each month. Madam Khoo had testified in court that the family had failed to pay their rent after March 2013.
The case involving Carmen Chng is still pending. Among other offences, she is accused of obstructing a policeman from carrying out his duties, voluntarily causing hurt to a police officer and mischief.