Singapore

2 weeks’ jail for vendor who breached SHN to deliver newspapers

A newspaper vendor was sentenced yesterday to two weeks' jail after pleading guilty to breaching his stay-home notice (SHN) to deliver newspapers in March.

The court heard that Palanivelu Ramasamy, a registered vendor with Singapore Press Holdings (SPH), distributes newspapers around the Thomson area, and has two employees.

On March 21, the 48-year-old Singaporean returned home from India, where he had stayed for a month.

He was issued an SHN which required him to remain at home from that day to April 4.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Joshua Lim said Palanivelu knew he could not leave his residence, even if it was to buy food and essentials.

On March 30, Palanivelu received a call in the afternoon informing him that his workers had not distributed newspapers to customers in Goldhill Plaza in Thomson Road.

He decided to deliver the newspapers himself. He put on a mask and left his Towner Road flat to take a bus to Goldhill Plaza.

When he arrived, he retrieved the newspapers from near the building's security office and delivered them to 14 units across eight storeys of the building before taking a bus home.

His daughter later informed him that auxiliary police officers had visited his home while he was out.

"In total, the accused had been outside of his place of residence for two hours and 15 minutes," DPP Lim said.

In urging the court to impose a jail term of at least two weeks, the DPP said it was "completely unnecessary" for Palanivelu to have left his residence.

He could have asked either of his two employees to deliver the newspapers, or his customers to collect the newspapers themselves by explaining that he was unable to leave his home, the DPP added.

Palanivelu's lawyers, Mr Aaron Lee and Ms Teo Li Hui, said their client had decided to personally resolve the situation "out of what he perceived then as a sense of loyalty to his customers and dedication to his work".

They said he had left his home "for the sole purpose of protecting his livelihood" and was "simply responding to a work emergency".

Senior District Judge Bala Reddy disagreed, finding that there was no emergency in the circumstances and that Palanivelu had a "misplaced sense of duty".

Noting that the mitigation plea included SPH's testimony for Palanivelu, urging the court for leniency, the judge said the vendor could have asked SPH for help then.

SPH said in an earlier statement: "We are rendering him and his family the necessary assistance to help them through this difficult period.

"Since the implementation of Dorscon Orange and circuit breaker measures, we have constantly reminded our news vendor network of the need to comply with the prevailing regulations, even though this may result in later deliveries to our subscribers."

Palanivelu's sentence was deferred to July 1 to allow him to settle family and work matters.

He could have been jailed for up to six months and fined up to $10,000 for his offence.

COURT & CRIME