Jail for loan-shark harassment could go up

Jail for loan-shark harassment could go up
Red paint splashed on a debtor's neighbours' doors to pressure the debtor to pay up.

SINGAPORE - Loan-shark runners will be slapped with as many as three extra months in jail if they are caught harassing debtors' neighbours.

High Court Justice Tay Yong Kwang seemed to set this sentencing guideline in judgment grounds released on Tuesday, when he nearly doubled runner Quek Li Hao's punishment from 14 to 24 months after an appeal by the prosecution.

The judge made it clear that loan sharks cannot be allowed to treat innocent neighbours as "mere collateral damage".

"In my view, offenders who knowingly harass innocent persons... ought to be given an imprisonment term of two to three months higher than the benchmark sentence of 12 months' imprisonment."

Lawyers whom The Straits Times spoke to said this could set a precedent for lower district courts.

"When such cases are heard, district courts will take an ever more serious view of aggravating factors like the harassment of neighbours," said criminal lawyer Kertar Singh.

In March, Quek, who pleaded guilty to four counts of harassment, was sentenced by a district judge to 14 months' jail and 12 strokes of the cane. Seven additional counts were taken into consideration.

But prosecutors argued that the sentences were "manifestly inadequate".

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