He has scant regard for others

He has scant regard for others

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.

Not Trivial

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.

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