When he told a Choa Chu Kang MRT station master that he had a bomb in his bag in January, Imran Othman meant it as a joke. But in the end, nobody thought it was funny.
Yesterday, he was sentenced to a total of 10 months' jail for criminal intimidation plus two other charges of using criminal force on a public servant and theft.
District Judge Lim Tse Haw reprimanded Imran, 40, for his stunt, committed on Jan 31 at around 10am.
Mr Lim said: "Much resources were wasted in dealing with your threat. It involved a threat to the public transport system."
When the station master questioned Imran at the time, the latter replied that he was joking and left the station. He was later arrested at the same station when he returned at about 2pm.
Bomb detection and police K-9 units were deployed to "sweep the vicinity and sweep various MRT stations", deputy public prosecutor James Low said.
But what had caused Imran to utter the threat? Imran told the court: "That time, I got migraine and pressure because my mother was (undergoing) dialysis... Suddenly, I hear voices (in my head)."
Nevertheless, S. Balamurugan, a lawyer who was not involved in this case, said it is necessary to send a deterrent message to would-be offenders.
Referring to Imran's case, Mr Bala said: "It was an ill-conceived joke that raises unnecessary alarm and distress to members of the public."
Such threats would result in unnecessary deployment of resources, security expert Yang Razali Kassim told The New Paper yesterday.
Said the senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University: "Whether a joke or not, it's still an alarm (that) triggers the deployment of huge resources. Imagine the wastage if it turns out to be a joke."
The terrorist attacks in the US in 2001 ultimately changed the security landscape globally. Threats to public safety cannot be ignored, said Mr Yang Razali.
He added: "It can never be regarded as a joke under any circumstances, especially under the present climate. After Sept 11, the whole world takes bomb threats extremely seriously."
This article was published on Sept 5 in The New Paper.
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