Why wasn't 'Messiah' charged for instigation

One "Messiah", several alleged hackings later, and now 25 other people are in trouble with the law.

Of these 25, who are aged between 17 and 45, five have been charged in court and the rest are assisting the police in investigations.

But why wasn't anyone charged in court as an instigator?

Four lawyers The New Paper spoke to on Wednesday said that hackers who leave messages calling for an unlawful assembly can be considered as instigators and be charged as if they had committed the crime themselves.

ROLE PLAYED

Speaking in general, lawyer Shashi Nathan from KhattarWong said there are laws here that recognise the role played by instigators.

Said Mr Nathan: "A person can be charged with abetment of an offence that he or she instigated.

"Ultimately, it depends on the role he or she played in instigating others."

A section in the Penal Code states that a person who makes any document or electronic record containing an incitement to violence or breach of peace shall be punished with up to five years in jail or a fine, or both.

Criminal lawyer Luke Lee said that the instigator will be treated as if he or she committed the crime and can be given the same punishment.

To lawyer Sunil Sudheesan from RHT Law LLP, instigators should be punished the most if it can be established that they play the role of the mastermind.

But he added: "If the instigator puts the idea out there, but doesn't act on it, then he or she cannot be considered as having played a leadership role."

Penalties also differ from case to case, said Mr Sudheesan.

This is because there are several factors in play when it comes to tackling online instigators.

DETERMINATION

Said Mr Sudheesan: "It first depends on what the person has done in the first place to get the message out." This could show the determination of the instigator to spread the message to his or her intended audience.

The intention of the instigator matters too, he said.

Last year, a 36-year-old man was jailed for two months for the offence of incitement to violence, after he made an online posting on assassinating then-deputy prime minister Wong Kan Seng.

In this case, he was initially fined $6,000 when the district judge concluded that his intention in making the posting was to seek attention rather than incite violence.

But the prosecution appealed against the sentence.

A High Court judge then raised the sentence to two months in jail, after he decided that the man had intended to incite violence with the posting, given the scenes in the video and the man's comment about re-enacting it at the National Day Parade.

JEST OR PRANK

"Courts must determine if it was made in jest or as a prank," said Mr Sudheesan.

It also depends on the severity of what was instigated.

He said: "If I tell everyone to book seats at the coffee shop by putting packets of tissue paper on all the tables, that is incitement. But I'm not punishable because what I did was not severe enough."

To see if a person has instigated others to commit crimes, one only needs to see if a concerted plan was organised for the purpose of canvassing for participants, lawyer Gloria James-Civetta said. "It is like a conspiracy," said Ms James, who manages law firm Gloria James-Civetta & Co. SedITION In cases of sedition, for instance, all that is required to pin a person for sedition is if the person simply talked about sowing discord, said Mr Nathan.

He said: "If he fanned the flames, even though he did not tell others to start a riot per se, he can be charged with sedition."

The police declined to comment as the case is before the court and investigations are ongoing.

Accused: Words taken out of context

In court on Tuesday, the prosecution said James Raj had told police he was suffering from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and was on medication.

James Raj Arokiasamy later said his words were taken out of context and claimed bias on the part of the police, alleging that he had been assaulted "quite badly" during his arrest in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and had suffered a concussion.

He also claimed to have been denied a call to his mother and medical attention for more than 30 hours.

"Everything is quite biased against me at the moment... I would feel quite comfortable if I could speak to my lawyer," he told District Judge Kessler Soh.

Despite the protest from defence lawyer M. Ravi, the judge ordered that James Raj be remanded at the Institute of Mental Health for psychiatric evaluation.

During the evaluation, which will take up to two weeks, James Raj will not be allowed access to any third parties, including the police and lawyers, apart from medical personnel.

The case against him will be heard again on Nov 26.

Who faces what

JAMES RAJ AROKIASAMY

He had allegedly consumed drugs on May 25, 2011, before leaving Singapore for Malaysia.

While there, the Singaporean, 35, allegedly hacked into the Ang Mo Kio Town Council's website on Oct 28 this year.

Malaysian police arrested him at his rented home in Kuala Lumpur on Nov 4. He was brought back to Singapore and charged with three counts of drug consumption the next day.

On Tuesday, he faced a new charge, an offence under the Computer Misuse and Cybersecurity Act for allegedly modifying the contents of the town council's website.

THE FIVE SKATEBOARDERS

They allegedly defaced public property on Nov 5 and ended up in court on Tuesday on vandalism charges.

Mohamad Fadzly Aziz, 21, Muhammad Qamarul Arifin Sa'adon, 22, Muhammad Fitri Abu Kasim, 24, and Danial Ryan Salleh, 25, allegedly used spray-paint to vandalise places including a pillar and a pavement outside Sunshine Plaza at around 4am that day.

Mohamad Fadzly and another friend, Muhammad Redzwan Baskin, 26, then went to *Scape and continued their alleged vandalism.

THE 15 PROTESTERS

Aged between 16 and 27 years old, the Singaporeans responded to calls in support of a movement called the "Million Mask March" on Nov 5 to commemorate Guy Fawkes Day.

The police said that a group of 12 men gathered near City Hall MRT station at around 7pm and three were wearing Guy Fawkes masks.

About three hours later, two other men and a woman were seen with masks on Orchard Road.

All 15 are now assisting with police investigations into possible offences of organising and/or taking part in a public assembly without a permit.

THE FIVE SUSPECTS IN ISTANA AND PMO CASES

Believed to be involved in the "hacking" of the Istana and Prime Minister's Office (PMO) websites on Nov 7 and 8, they are now assisting in police investigations.

The New Paper understands that two suspects in the PMO case are brothers in their 20s.

TNP also understands the Istana incident involves a student, 17, and a IT executive, 45, who are not related to each other.

The police believe that both cases are not connected to the other cases of hacking and vandalism.

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