Jail term reduced for man badgered into harassing debtors

A 23 year-old man, who was roped in by a friend to harass people owing money to loan sharks, yesterday had his jail term reduced from four months to four weeks on appeal to the High Court.

Judge of Appeal Chao Hick Tin, in written reasons for his decision, said Melvin Ng Teng Yi had not been motivated by monetary reward, but by a "misguided sense of friendship".

Ng was a 20-year-old polytechnic student in 2010 when his friend, Gerald Tan, called him and promised him some money if he helped him harass debtors.

Tan had borrowed $500 from a loan shark, and when he could not repay the loan, was offered the job of harassing debtors.

Besides Ng, Tan recruited another assistant by the name of Alicia Tay.

On the night of July 6, 2010, the trio went to the 13th floor of a Housing Board block, where Ng used a permanent marker to write graffiti on a wall.

Tan then told Ng to splash red paint on the door of a neighbour of the debtor, which he did.

The trio, all first-time offenders, were arrested at the scene.

Tan was sentenced to reformative training and Tay was placed on probation in October 2010.

Ng pleaded guilty only in April this year after making representations to the prosecution and obtaining medical reports, which showed he has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). He was given four months' jail and a $30,000 fine for helping in an unlicensed moneylending business.

Ng, represented by lawyer Zaminder Singh Gill, appealed.

In his judgment, Justice Chao said that while Parliament intended to deal sternly with people involved in illegal moneylending activities, the punishment must fit both the crime and the criminal.

The judge noted that Ng went along with Tan on the latter's persistent persuasion as he did not want his friend to be unhappy with him; and Tan likely took advantage of Ng's obliging nature.

Justice Chao said Ng's misguided sense of peer loyalty was linked to his ADHD, which made him behave impulsively without thinking through the consequences.

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