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The Straits Times
Feb 27, 2023
Phoon Chiu Yoke objected to closed-circuit television (CCTV) footage being admitted as evidence during her trial on Monday, claiming she could not be certain her likeness was not superimposed on the video.
Phoon, 55, whom netizens have dubbed “Badge Lady”, claimed trial after being accused of not wearing a mask in Orchard Road on March 6, 2022. She is contesting four charges, three of which are for failing to wear a mask when it was mandatory to do so.
Wearing masks outdoors became optional in Singapore only from March 29, 2022.
On Monday, during the second day of the trial, an ancillary hearing was conducted to determine whether footage of Phoon walking along Orchard Road had been tampered with.
An ancillary hearing is a separate hearing from a trial to determine if evidence produced by the prosecution is admissible.
Phoon took the stand during this hearing, which began on Friday, to testify that the footage could have been altered.
“This video does not come with a watermark. I can’t be sure that you did not superimpose an image of me onto the CCTV footage. In today’s technology, it is not that difficult,” said Phoon.
“It could have been me... It could have been somebody who looks like me,” Phoon later added as she gestured to the CCTV footage played in court.
The footage was considered in relation to two of her charges. The first was for walking maskless at Mandarin Gallery in Orchard Road from 3.02pm to 3.04pm on March 6, 2022, and the second for not wearing a mask while walking past a Victoria’s Secret outlet between 3.35pm and 3.37pm.
Upon playing CCTV footage from a different angle, Deputy Public Prosecutor Heershan Kaur said: “Now that we have a clearer view, it is clearly you in your yellow loafers and sunglasses, right?”
Phoon said she could not be sure, and later added: “This pair of loafers is from Clarks or Ecco. I’m sure they do not sell only to one person, or make only one size.”
When DPP Kaur asked if she owned the black sunglasses seen in the footage, Phoon replied: “Every pair of sunglasses is black.”
Following multiple exchanges between DPP Kaur and Phoon in which Phoon had repeatedly not answered the prosecution’s questions directly, DPP Kaur said: “I put it to you that you’re deliberately being a difficult and evasive witness. Do you agree?”
Phoon said she disagreed.
In her submissions, DPP Kaur said Mr Ruthrapathy Nirmal Sritharan, a security team leader at Hilton Singapore Orchard who is also in charge of security at Mandarin Gallery, testified that the CCTV cameras were in good working condition during the period in question.
She added that Mr Ruthrapathy also testified that the CCTV footage was accurate and that he did not alter, amend or edit the footage in any way.
DPP Kaur also submitted that Mr Baharudeen Ali Mohamed Kassim, the lead investigation officer at Singapore Tourism Board, who took the witness stand on Friday, had confirmed that he had only cut and stitched the footage together without making other edits to it.
“Thus, the prosecution submits that both witnesses did not tamper with the footage, nor did they have any reasons to do so,” she said.
District Judge Tan Jen Tse found that other than the cutting and stitching of the footage to create the video, the clip was not tampered with and said the court will admit it as evidence.
“The point of the watermark raised by the accused is irrelevant... The footage does not have a watermark, but that does not mean it cannot be relied on,” said the judge, agreeing with the prosecution that there is no law or requirement that a watermark needs to be included in a video for it to be admitted as evidence.
The trial continues.