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Homeless man jailed for flouting Covid-19 stay-home notice

Homeless man jailed for flouting Covid-19 stay-home notice
Rozman Abdul Rahman arriving at the State Courts on April 19, 2021.
PHOTO: The Straits Times/Kelvin Chng

SINGAPORE - When he returned to Singapore from Batam in March 2020, he flouted his stay-home notice (SHN) and worked as a security officer for 13 days before he was arrested.

Though Rozman Abdul Rahman, 41, had provided his stepsister's address to the authorities, he was not on good terms with her and slept in a carpark and a walkway because he did not have a place to stay.

The Singaporean was on Thursday (Dec 2) handed seven weeks' jail after pleading guilty earlier to a charge of putting others at risk of Covid-19 transmission while he had been issued an SHN.

He did not have Covid-19 at the time of the offence, the court heard.

After Rozman's lawyers told the court they would be filing an appeal against the sentence, the case was adjourned to Dec 16.

Court documents said he frequently travelled between his residence in Malaysia and Singapore for work.

On March 20 last year, he returned to the Republic on a ferry from Batam, Indonesia, after dropping off his Indonesian wife.

He signed a form to acknowledge his 14-day SHN that had been required for anyone arriving in Singapore since March 16 following a surge in Covid-19 cases.

Rozman was initially reluctant to serve his SHN but declined the suggestion by Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) officers that he return to Batam.

He then provided his stepsister's address in Punggol but did not inform the officers that he had difficulty staying at her place, said the prosecution.

It is understood the pair are estranged. Instead of going to her house, he slept at a multi-storey carpark behind Chinatown Point and a walkway near VivoCity before moving to a homeless shelter in April.

The prosecution said ICA officers would have helped him find a place to stay if he had told them about his problem.

Between March 20 and April 3, he worked almost every night as a security officer overseeing delivery drivers entering an industrial building in Joo Koon.

His manager at a security firm said Rozman did not inform the company that he had been placed on SHN and was fired soon after, the court heard.

On April 3, ICA officers called the police after they went to his stepsister's address and found out the siblings had not been in contact.

In seeking a jail term of seven weeks, the prosecution said Rozman had reason to suspect he was a contact of Covid-19 and had exposed others to the risk of infection by working during his SHN.


Deputy Public Prosecutor Lai Yan said in court: "It is quite clear that his is a case involving one who breached his SHN knowing he had no place to stay. Breaching the SHN for 13 days is almost unprecedented."

Rozman's lawyers, Mr Azri Imran Tan and Mr Joshua Chow, urged District Judge Ng Cheng Thiam to consider his case as an exceptional one and suggested rehabilitation over deterrence.

"He was unable to meet his basic needs, being unable to even top up a pre-paid card," said Mr Tan of IRB Law, who represented Rozman pro bono.

"There should be a distinction between those who frivolously go out and breach SHN versus those with no choice, for reasons beyond their control or where there was an imperative," he added.

Judge Ng ruled that a fine or community-based sentence was inadequate for deterrence and agreed to hold Rozman's jail sentence till Dec 16 for the defence to file an appeal.

This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.

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