Indian national Mahalingam Thavamani, the first of the 25 men facing charges for their roles in last December's Little India riot to claim trial, was found guilty and given five months' jail yesterday.
Initially charged with rioting, Thavamani, 27, was found guilty of an amended charge of obstructing a public servant when the latter was endeavouring to disperse an unlawful assembly.
He is the first here to be convicted of this offence, said Deputy Public Prosecutor Kumaresan Gohulabalan.
Yesterday, District Judge Salina Ishak accepted Deputy Superintendent of Police N. Subramaniam's testimony that Thavamani had refused to leave Belilios Road in the Little India area, and had insisted on moving into a restricted area in the same road even though he had been told to leave.
The court had heard during the trial held over April and last month that the accused's voice grew louder as he spoke to the police officer.
The district judge also accepted evidence that Thavamani had not provided any reason for entering Belilios Road, rejecting his testimony that he had not obstructed the police but had simply been pleading with them about his younger brother, whom he claimed had gone missing in the night's chaos.
During the trial, DSP Subramaniam had been unable to identify Thavamani in court.
Yesterday, the district judge said that this "was not fatal to the prosecution's case" as the accused had been identified by another officer, who had testified behind closed doors due to the nature of his intelligence work.
Thavamani's "persistent refusal to heed the directions of (DSP Subramaniam) at the junction of Belilios Road and Serangoon Road had amounted to obstructing... (the officer) from discharging his duty in dispersing persons" in the vicinity of the riot, the judge added.
Instead, the police officer "had to spend about 10 minutes in engaging the accused" and was thus unable to disperse an unruly crowd across the road, she said.
In sentencing, the judge said that while the accused had not taken part in the violence, the court must still send a strong signal that such "blatant disregard for (the) authorities".
Thavamani's five-month jail sentence was backdated to Jan 23, and was completed on the day it was passed.
He had been in police custody in prison since his arrest on Dec 8 last year, on the day of the riot.
The Straits Times understands that he is likely to be deported soon.
Besides Thavamani, four other Indian nationals were jailed for rioting, receiving terms of 18 to 33 months each.
Two of the four also admitted to mischief by fire and received three strokes of the cane.
Six others were given jail terms of 15 or 18 weeks each for failing to disperse on the night of the riot; another was jailed for nine months for joining an unlawful assembly.
Thirteen other cases are pending.
This article was first published on June 24, 2014.
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