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    Oct 28, 2015

    Sentencing guidelines for young re-offenders issued

    YOUNG offenders, who re-commit crimes while on probation should not be given a fresh probation sentence, if the cases indicate that the offenders did not learn their lesson.

    Chief Justice (CJ) Sundaresh Menon laid out sentencing guidelines for such cases in his written judgment on Monday, on the prosecution's appeal for a heavier sentence for Toa Payoh rooftop vandal Boaz Koh Wen Jie.

    Koh, 18, was initially sentenced to 30 months' probation in June for defacing the rooftop of a Housing Board block in Toa Payoh. But the prosecution lodged an appeal and argued that this was too lenient.

    His appeal was heard in July, and he was then given a heavier punishment - reformative training.

    So now, he has to serve 18 months to three years at the Reformative Training Centre (RTC).

    There were two aggravating factors for the new punishment. Koh had committed the crime while still on probation for an earlier offence. The risk factors to Koh's re-offending, including a lack of interest in studies and a lack of family support, still persist as well.

    CJ Menon said on Monday that, in cases involving recalcitrant young offenders, the court had to weigh several factors before deciding on a fresh sentence for the second offence.

    First, it had to consider whether the latest offence is serious and the offender's pattern of offending.

    "To put it another way, the question is whether the youthful offender's offending pattern justifies optimism or forebodes an 'escalation' from the offender's previous offences," wrote the Chief Justice.

    Second, the Court should also consider whether the young person was genuinely remorseful and whether risk factors that caused the last breach of probation were addressed.

    Third, it had to consider whether there was a need to publicly deter similar offences in the future.

    In Koh's case, CJ Menon had said that given the seriousness of the crimes - vandalism, theft and trespass - a term of confinement and deprivation of liberty was warranted so as to send out a stronger message of deterrence.

    "The appropriate sentence is ultimately a matter for the sentencing court's discretion, and the court must endeavour to arrive at the appropriate sentence after a consideration of all the circumstances of the case in the light of the particular offender and the particular offence," wrote the Chief Justice.