Seasoned jailbird expresses regret, but keeps re-offending

Seasoned jailbird expresses regret, but keeps re-offending

Over the past 27 years, he has been in and out of prison for theft at least two dozen times.

While he had mostly stolen petty items, his 24 offences were enough to put the recalcitrant thief away for nearly 18 of those 27 years.

On Wednesday, the jobless M. Mahalingam, 63, found himself back in jail for 16 months, but not before some harsh words from Community Court judge Lim Keng Yeow, who also asked to meet him privately after sentencing him.

His latest crime: Stealing two cans of beer from supermarkets in March.

On March 7, Mahalingam was at Prime Supermarket in Tampines Street 81 around 11am when a supermarket employee saw him behaving suspiciously at the beer section.

When Mahalingam realised he was being watched, he put down a can of beer at the vegetable section and left.

Around 3pm that day, the same employee saw Mahalingam at the beer section again.

He put a can of Tiger beer into his left pocket before leaving.

Another employee stopped him outside the supermarket, took back the beer and called the cops.

On March 26 at 9.30am, Mahalingam was in NTUC Finest at Marine Parade when he was spotted by a loss prevention officer, who recognised him as a beer theft suspect from the week before.

At the chiller section, Mahalingam took a can of Kirin beer and left without paying, but was stopped by the officer.

He admitted to stealing the beer and paid for it.

He was back two hours later and took a can of Heineken beer. The loss prevention officer confronted him again and called the police.

These offences were the latest in a long list that took Deputy Public Prosecutor Chee Ee Ling nearly five minutes to read out.

Lawyer Amarick Gill, representing Mahalingam pro bono, said his client was remorseful after spending almost 18 years in jail for a string of theft-related offences.

Despite his past convictions, Mahalingam has no psychiatric issues, he said, repeatedly bringing up the point that his client hopes to find a job so he can stop offending.

"Hopefully, he will find the discipline in himself (to turn his life around). The important thing is that he finds work," Mr Gill said.

But Judge Lim pointed out that despite his multiple prison sentences, including a stint at corrective training, Mahalingam was still re-offending.

Humble

"Your sentences haven't caused you to wake up... I know through Mr Gill, you have expressed remorse, but to what extent can you be taken seriously?" the judge asked.

Mr Freddy Wee, the deputy director of Breakthrough Missions, which runs a halfway house for ex-offenders, said that jobs are available for ex-convicts, but they have to be humble and not be choosy.

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