45 criminal charges over 25 years

An incorrigible serial offender who chalked up 45 criminal charges, from robbery to criminal intimidation, over 25 years was given nine years of corrective training on Wednesday.

But the punishment is nothing new to 39-year-old Ng Kim Hong.

The former customer service officer has also done time under probation, at a juvenile home, in reformative training and in prison since his first conviction in 1988 at the age of 13.

He has also received 18 strokes of the cane for crimes such as robbery and unlawful possession of a weapon.

Ng committed his latest offences, taking about $5,000 worth of cash and valuables, in November and December last year - 14 months after he finished an eight-year corrective training stint.

He approached his victims and asked to borrow their mobile phones by lying either that his phone battery was flat or that he needed to make an urgent call. He would then walk or run off with the phones.

To get his victims to hand over their phones, another ruse he used was to promise them a good trade-in value for the items. He also stole two phones and $1,500 in cash from two people in a hotel room in Sentosa and a Housing Board flat in Yishun respectively.

He pleaded guilty to five counts of criminal breach of trust, cheating and theft in dwelling on Feb 25, with five other charges taken into consideration.

Ng was handed a four-year jail term in the district court, but on Wednesday Justice Chao Hick Tin changed this to nine years of corrective training following an appeal by prosecutors.

"Hopefully this will give (Ng) the time to reflect on his actions and reform, and come out a better person," said the judge, who considered Ng's background and previous punishments.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Amardeep Singh asked for 10 to 11 years of corrective training, adding that Ng would benefit from it.

He said the district court had given "undue weight" to Ng's profession of remorse and promises to reform, which should be viewed with "some circumspection" in view of the man's criminal record and the short space of time between his previous corrective training stint and his latest offences.

"Looking at his antecedents, it becomes evident that the only time he did not commit any crime was when he was serving time," DPP Singh pointed out.

But Senior Counsel N. Sreenivasan, who represented Ng on a pro bono - or free - basis, argued that the four-year jail term was not "unjustly lenient".

Noting that the valuables involved were worth less than $5,000, Mr Sreenivasan said that Ng had received his "just punishment".

Corrective training is a regime in which repeat offenders are jailed for five to 14 years. It does not offer the usual one-third remission for good behaviour.

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