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The Straits Times
Aug 11, 2023
Phoon Chiu Yoke, more popularly known as “Badge Lady”, was convicted of four charges after a trial, three of which were for not wearing a mask in Orchard Road.
The first charge was for walking maskless at Mandarin Gallery in Orchard Road from 3.02pm to 3.04pm on March 6, 2022.
The second was for not wearing a mask while walking past a Victoria’s Secret shop between 3.35pm and 3.37pm on the same day.
Wearing masks outdoors became optional in Singapore only from March 29, 2022.
Another charge was for walking within Ion Orchard mall without a mask on Aug 16, 2022. Mask-wearing indoors in places such as malls was made optional only from Aug 29, 2022.
On Friday, District Judge Tan Jen Tse said video evidence showed the accused without a mask, and Phoon was also positively identified by witnesses.
The judge said she had no reasonable excuse for not wearing a mask, and convicted her of the charges.
Also on Friday, Phoon, 56, had earlier said in her closing submissions that there was no longer a requirement to wear a mask now, and questioned the need for prosecution.
She said: “If the section (in the Covid-19 [Temporary Measures] Act 2020) has been revoked, then why are we sitting here discussing an offence that is no longer an offence?
“It comes across as being very vindictive, it comes across as getting back (at) this person, looking for the slightest problem.”
Pressing her point, Phoon asked: “Is there a victim in this case? Is there someone else who was seriously hurt because I was not wearing a mask? Were there huge financial losses incurred because I was not wearing a mask?”
Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Heershan Kaur said that at the point in time when Phoon committed the offences, they were chargeable offences.
Phoon also said an investigation officer (IO) had gone to her apartment to take her passport after she was charged. Phoon claimed that this was contempt of court.
She called for all of her charges to be dismissed and the IO’s testimony to be nullified on this basis.
DPP Kaur rejected this allegation and said the IO impounded Phoon’s passport under the provisions of the Criminal Procedure Code.
Phoon also faced another charge of failing to attend an interview for an investigation by the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) regarding a mask-related offence.
In the prosecution’s submissions, DPP Kaur said Phoon had been given three chances to go to STB.
She did not comply with the first two orders on March 19 and 23, 2022, and she made a police report on March 24, 2022, accusing someone of impersonating STB officers.
On the same day that she made the police report, STB’s investigation officers explained to Phoon their powers and showed her their badges. Phoon suggested going to STB on March 31, said the prosecutor.
But she did not turn up or answer the officers’ calls.
Phoon claimed that anybody familiar with the STB would know that it “does not have enforcement powers”, and claimed she had filed a police report as a dutiful citizen.
She also cast doubt on the closed-circuit television footage of her not wearing a mask that had been submitted as evidence, describing it as “staged” footage that did not verify her identity.
Phoon, who served 12 years in the Republic of Singapore Navy as one of its pioneer female naval commanding officers, was sentenced to 16 weeks’ jail in September 2021 for a separate set of mask-related offences.
She first made headlines when she was caught on video not wearing a mask at Marina Bay Sands on May 15, 2021.
The video clip, which went viral, showed her telling safe-distancing ambassadors: “Who are you? Who are you representing? Where is your badge? Show me your badge.”
Images of her were circulated on social media as she went around without a mask at several locations, including Jewel Changi Airport and Orchard Road.
She will be sentenced on Sept 11.
Phoon is liable for stiffer punishment as a repeat offender. For each charge she faces, she could be fined up to $20,000, or imprisoned up to 12 months, or both, which is twice the maximum fine or jail time compared with what a first offender might receive.