SINGAPORE — A 67-year-old man who saw a 12-year-old boy riding a bicycle on the same track thrice on different days insisted that he was cycling on the wrong track.
When the boy tried to explain to Chua Chek Yong that the track was permitted for cycling under the Land Transport Authority’s (LTA) policy, Chua slapped the primary school student and rained multiple punches on him.
The LTA later confirmed that cycling was allowed on the track that the boy was on.
Chua was jailed for five days on Thursday (2 September) after carrying out what District Judge (DJ) Janet Wang described as his own brand of “vigilante justice”.
“Plainly this is a classic case of bullying. (While) he might have been concerned with personal safety…(his) concern was clearly misconceived,” said the judge, who noted that there was no previous incident between Chua and the boy that might have explained the man's actions.
Chua pleaded guilty to one count of voluntarily causing hurt to the boy, whose identity is protected under the Children and Young Persons Act.
Chua, a Singaporean working in sales, had met the boy for the first time on 13 November last year, when he saw the boy cycling on the track along Block 438 Hougang Avenue 8. The boy studied at a nearby primary school.
When Chua saw the boy, the man told him that he should cycle on the pavement and not on the track. The boy complied.
A week later, Chua spotted the boy cycling slowly on the same track. He threatened to deflate the boy’s bicycle tires with a pump if he caught the boy riding there again. The boy cycled away without incident.
Some 15 minutes later, Chua again saw the boy on the track and blocked the boy. He told the boy to turn around and cycle away. When the boy asked why Chua was not allowed to cycle there, Chua challenged him to call the police.
The boy tried to explain that the LTA permitted cycling on the track, but Chua interrupted with “it was because ‘I said’, before stating ‘government said’”, the prosecution told the court. When the boy rebutted him that it was not the case, Chua pointed his finger into the boy’s face and said, “you don’t argue with me”.
The boy tried to explain LTA’s policy but Chua slapped his face with the back of his hand. The boy had been taking a video of Chua with his handphone at this point, and the footage was played in court.
“The accused said, ‘you want to argue with me ah’, and ‘you take picture’ before forcefully grabbing the victim’s phone… causing the phone to drop to the ground. During this time, the victim did not react to the accused,” said Deputy Public Prosecutor Chong Kee En.
As the victim bent to pick his phone, Chua rained punches on his face and head. As the victim got off his bicycle, Chua punched him on his chest and stomach area. In total, the boy was punched about five to eight times but did not retaliate. Chua then walked away.
The assault was witnessed by a male passerby, known as Chiang Kai Li, who approached the boy to check on him. Chiang offered to be a witness and asked the boy to call his parents. The boy called his father, who arrived at the scene and saw the video footage recorded by his son.
A while later, Chiang and the victim’s father saw Chua and confronted him.
“When the victim’s father asked why he had hit his son, the accused said that cycling was not allowed on the track. Thereafter, Mr Chiang indicated he had witnessed the assault and told the accused what he had done was wrong, whereupon the accused then apologised and said if the victim’s father was unhappy with how he had hit the victim, the victim’s father could beat him,” said DPP Chong.
The victim’s father declined and said he had called the police. When Chua was interviewed by the police, he initially admitted only that he had slapped the boy, and denied punching him.
The boy was attended to by paramedics, who saw redness and abrasion at his jaw area. He also had pain in his upper abdomen and at the back of his head. He was treated for superficial injuries.
Chua has since paid $120 in restitution to the boy’s father.
Chua’s lawyer, Noor Marican, said that his client had made a mistake about whether cycling was permitted on the track.
“He thought he was teaching the boy to be law-abiding and not cycle in this manner but he got it wrong,” Marican told the court in mitigation.
DJ Wang then asked about Chua’s family background, and whether he had children, to which Marican replied that Chua was married with children and grandchildren.
“On that point maybe he should have known better…He just wanted to teach the boy in that manner and he made that mistake,” the lawyer said, adding that turning to violence was a mistake.
The lawyer also cited Chua’s health issues in mitigation. Chua underwent a heart bypass surgery on 5 May last year, and went for an eye operation on 30 August this year. He appeared in court wearing an eye patch over one eye.
DJ Wang said that she was mindful of the trauma and distress the boy was put through during the episode.
“While the accused might have been laboured under mistaken belief his reaction was wholly disproportionate, (the) exercise of vigilante justice on his part was misplaced,” said DJ Wang, who noted that Chua had further picked on a defenceless 12-year-old child who was unaccompanied.
“(He has) conducted himself in a less than dignified and charitable manner befitting his age and seniority. Plainly, this is classic case of bullying, ” stated DJ Wang, who added that the boy had not been riding in a dangerous manner or at an unsafe speed.
Furthermore, Chua had approached the boy thrice in an overbearing manner and warned him against riding on the track, when he had no authority to do so. Chua had even taunted the victim’s father to beat him up in return, noted the judge.
Causing hurt carries a jail term of up to three years, or a fine of up to $5,000.
For causing hurt to a person under 14 years old, Chua could have been sentenced to up to twice the maximum penalty.