Teen who stole buses placed on probation

Teen who stole buses placed on probation
Muhammad Salahuddin Omar, a deaf teenager, was placed on 24 months’ probation for stealing three buses for joyrides over a two-month period in this year.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

A deaf teenager, who stole three buses for joyrides over a two-month period this year, was placed on 24 months' probation yesterday.

During this time, Muhammad Salahuddin Omar, who is also unable to speak, will not be able to apply for any driving licence.

On March 8, he stole a 45-seater bus in Woodlands and drove it onto the Ayer Rajah Expressway before being arrested. At the time, he was on police bail for taking two buses from carparks in Bukit Batok and Jurong Road on Jan 31.

The 17-year-old, who had admitted to theft of a bus, driving below the age of 18 and driving without insurance, promised not to get behind the wheel of a vehicle. He also promised to wear his hearing aid.

His father had told the court Salahuddin would lose his hearing aids or stop using them, as he found them uncomfortable.

Community Court Judge Mathew Joseph said yesterday: "If he is not hearing his parents, there is a huge disconnect... makes him more frustrated. I am sure the level of frustration is the cause of his offending.''

He suggested his parents take classes to improve their ability to communicate with the youngster, after hearing Mr Omar Ali, 50, say he was only 20 per cent to 30 per cent able to communicate with his son.

The judge told him he would need a "higher level''.

"I think part of the problem is his level of frustration because no one can hear him. He cannot hear others and he feels frustrated. If more people can hear him, that will be useful,'' he added.

He said a collective effort was needed to help the teen cope with the challenges of living in society. Noting Salahuddin's fascination for buses and his driving skills, Judge Joseph asked the probation officer if she had any ideas of how to harness that aspect of his talent creatively.

Ms Siti Aisha Khan Surattee said Salahuddin wished to take up engineering and electrical courses if he completed his N levels this year.

Judge Joseph told Salahuddin: "The court recognises your talent in this area but you need to harness it wisely and lawfully, and not steal buses and go for joy rides.''

Deputy Public Prosecutor Zhou Yihong said Salahuddin had shown a blatant disregard for the law, and it was fortunate no one was hurt when he drove on the expressway.

Judge Joseph also ordered the teen to remain indoors from 10 pm to 5.30am, be electronically tagged for six months, and perform 130 hours of community service.

His parents signed a bond of $5,000 to ensure his good behaviour. He could have been jailed for up to seven years, fined and banned from driving for vehicle theft.

elena@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on July 9, 2015.
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