Yee 'openly defied directions of the court'

Yee 'openly defied directions of the court'
ABSENT: Amos Yee did not turn up in court yesterday.
PHOTO: The New Paper

Teenage blogger Amos Yee Pang Sang had a "complete disregard" for others.

Justice Tay Yong Kwang also said that the teen displayed an attitude that was hardly ever seen among both adults and youngsters like him.

The judge had harsh words for Yee, 16, before dismissing the teenager's appeals at the High Court against his conviction and sentence yesterday.

He said: ""He openly defied directions of the court and made sure people on the Internet know about his bravado in giving no respect to absolutely anyone, whether it is the police, the court, someone who had just passed away and the people mourning him or an entire body of believers of a religion."

On May 12, after a two-day trial, district judge Jasvender Kaur had found Yee guilty of two charges.

They were for electronically transmitting an obscene image of late former prime minister (PM) Lee Kuan Yew and late former British PM Margaret Thatcher, and for uploading content online that contained remarks against Christianity.

Judge Kaur sentenced him to four weeks' jail on July 6.

Yee, who was represented by lawyers Alfred Dodwell, Chong Jiahao and Ervin Tan, was not in court yesterday.

When The New Paper asked why, Mr Dodwell said: "He elected not to turn up in court. We've informed him but because he's already served his sentence, it's his choice whether to turn up or not."

In their submissions yesterday, Yee's lawyers said that it was not their client's "dominant intention" to wound the religious feelings of Christians. Instead, his dominant intention was to critique Mr Lee.

The prosecution, made up of Deputy Public Prosecutors Kwek Mean Luck, Hon Yi, Kelvin Kow and Andre Chong, disagreed.

Yee's lawyers also said the teenager was exercising his constitutional right to freedom of speech and provoke "critical discussion".

But in his oral judgment, Justice Tay said that he saw no reason to disagree with most of Judge Kaur's findings.

On the obscenity charge, he said that depicting two naked bodies in an "overtly sexual position" is "obscene by standards of any right-thinking society".

And as for the other charge which involved the blogger's remarks against Christianity, the judge said Yee had used offending words against the central figure of the religion.

"There can be no doubt that he 'deliberately intended' to arouse Singaporeans, Christians or not, into verbal combat with him," said Justice Tay.

'NOBLE DISGUISE'

He also felt that Yee committed his offences in the "noble disguise" of freedom of speech.

He said: "His deliberate use of vulgarities and crude language and obscene depiction to provoke reaction seems like someone throwing stones at the windows of a neighbour's flat to force the neighbour to notice him, come out to quarrel or even to fight."

He added that this did not sound like freedom of speech at all. Instead it was "a licence to hate".

However, he also said that Yee is "obviously not a person without talent".

He noted that the teen has a command of English that could be put to very good use.

"I hope that Mr Yee will wean himself away from his preference for crude and rude language. Real debate and rational discussion on social issues can flourish in an environment of goodwill, reasoning and civil language. We need not poison them with vulgarities or crude language."

'YEE's 53 DAYS IN REMAND WAS HIS OWN DOING'

In their submissions yesterday, Amos Yee's lawyers appealed for a day's jail for the client.

The prosecution also said that a day's jail was appropriate in this case.

Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Kwek Mean Luck said that Yee, 16, was a young offender with no prior record. He said Yee had spent 53 days in remand which exceeded his four-week sentence.

DPP Kwek pointed out that this was due to Yee's own actions, since he had deliberately breached his bail conditions and rejected probation.

Justice Tay Yong Kwang shared the prosecution's view when he dismissed Yee's appeal against his sentence.

He said: "In these very rare circumstances, I think it would be wrong to keep focusing only on Mr Yee's age and to downplay all that he had said and done.

"The period that Mr Yee had to spend in remand, as the learned Solicitor-General has said, and which exceeds the four weeks' imprisonment, was caused entirely by Mr Yee alone."

Yee's lawyers also said that it was not their client's "dominant intention" to wound the religious feelings of Christians.

Instead, his dominant intention was to critique the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore's first PM.

Disagreeing, the prosecution said that according to the law, only "deliberate intention" was required and not "dominant intention".

It added that Yee was "fully aware that his remarks were bound to promote ill-will amongst Christian population" and that his actions were "clearly deliberate".


This article was first published on October 9, 2015.
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