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The Straits Times
May 24, 2023
A woman told to put on her mask when it was the rule to do so has challenged some of the contents of security videos which purportedly showed her going maskless at Ion Orchard during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Phoon Chiu Yoke on Wednesday questioned the admissibility of some of the video clips, arguing that it could not be established that it was her in footage captured by the mall’s closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras.
During cross examinations, she also suggested that some of the video clips may not have been protected from tampering.
But the 55-year-old admitted that one of the video clips did capture her. She said it showed her putting on a mask within a minute of being told to do so by a security officer.
Phoon, who was sentenced to 16 week’ jail in September 2021 for a separate set of mask-related offences, is contesting four charges – three for failing to wear a mask when it was mandatory to do so.
The fourth charge is for failing to attend an investigation by the Singapore Tourism Board.
Phoon, who served 12 years of service in the Republic of Singapore Navy as one of the pioneer female naval commanding officers, was allegedly spotted at the Ion Orchard mall without a mask for 15 minutes on Aug 16, 2022. Mask wearing indoors at most places was lifted only on Aug 29, 2022.
Phoon, who is representing herself, questioned the security officer who approached her that day, during cross examinations. She said the CCTV footage showed that she put on a mask about 39 seconds after the officer told her to do so.
“To you, it’s important that a visitor doesn’t put on a mask for 39 seconds – it’s a big offence, and therefore I have to leave Ion Orchard?” she asked.
The officer agreed that it was an offence, adding that he was instructed to ask patrons of the mall to leave if they did not comply with instructions to put on a mask.
The officer said he was at Level 2 of the mall near a luxury watch boutique when he spotted Phoon taking the escalator from Level 3 to Level 2. She was allegedly not wearing a mask.
When asked by Deputy Public Prosecutor Heershan Kaur if he had seen Phoon before, the officer said he recognised her from social media and news articles.
Phoon had been dubbed “Badge Lady” by netizens for once demanding to see the badge of a person who had asked her to wear a mask, and after images of her circulated on social media, as she went around without a mask at different times in several locations, including Jewel Changi Airport, Orchard Road and Marina Bay Sands.
The officer said that after spotting Phoon allegedly without a face covering at Ion Orchard, he approached her and told her to don a mask. But he said she turned away without saying anything. He then alerted the security command centre.
The officer added that he saw her later looping something over her ear.
Phoon asked the officer if the mall had put up signages that day to remind all visitors to put on their mask. He said he could not recall.
She said when the officer approached her, her back was towards him. Phoon asked how could he be sure she was not eating, drinking or taking medication at the time.
In response, the officer said he was sure because she did turn around to face him when he spoke to her.
Phoon also separately questioned other officers who handled the CCTV footage, which was given to the police. She asked one of the officers if he had protected the footage and how certain he was that the video clips were not edited. The officer said that based on his memory, they had not been tampered with.
Phoon also questioned if the woman in some of the clips was her, given that the cameras were a distance away.
At the start of proceedings on Wednesday, Phoon asked for her passport, which had been impounded by a police investigating officer, to be tendered as evidence. She claimed the officer had committed contempt of court.
The judge said she could highlight this at a later point, but that the physical copy of the passport need not be tendered into evidence.
The trial continues.