Reformative training for teen who did backflip in rhino pen in Singapore Zoo

Shaffiq Alkhatib
The Straits Times
December 20, 2021

A youth caught on video doing a backflip inside a white rhinoceros enclosure at the Singapore Zoo last year was on Monday (Dec 20) sentenced to undergo reformative training for at least a year.

This means he will be detained in a centre and made to follow a strict regimen that includes foot drills and counselling.

Home-schooled student Ralph Wee Yi Kai, 19, who appeared in court via video link, pleaded guilty last month to eight charges for offences including mischief, criminal trespass and drug consumption.

The Singaporean started his crime spree in October last year after going to a friend's house in Sixth Crescent near Bukit Timah Road to talk about his problems, which were not disclosed in court documents.

Feeling increasingly emotional, Wee left his friend's home on Oct 9 last year.

He went to a nearby bus stop at around 2.40am where he kicked an information panel, causing $900 in damage.

A taxi driver spotted Wee committing the offence and alerted the police.

He was walking back to his friend's home when he kicked the side mirrors of a parked Mercedes-Benz car, causing nearly $2,800 in damage.

On Dec 17 last year, he went to the Singapore Zoo, entered the rhinoceros pen and performed the backflip while a girl recorded his act.

The police, who were alerted to the case at around 5.40pm that day, said: "Preliminary investigations revealed that the man's companion... filmed him before the man posted the video on his TikTok account, using the moniker @ralphwee_.

"Through investigations, officers from Woodlands Police Division established the identities of the man and woman on the same evening."

The police later issued the 18-year-old girl a stern warning for abetting criminal trespass.

Wee was at a friend's home in Ocean Drive in Sentosa Cove a week later on Dec 24 last year when he placed a frog on a foosball table.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Melissa Lee said in an earlier court proceeding that he directed a ball "at high speed and force" towards the frog, and it died soon after.

One of his friends filmed the incident and the clip was posted on social media. Wee later cut the dead frog and threw its carcass into a canal.

He appeared in court for the first time in July this year and was charged with two counts of mischief, as well as one count each of vandalism and criminal trespass.

He was out on bail of $15,000 when he consumed cannabis the following month.

Wee was at the Institute of Mental Health on Sept 14 when three police officers showed up to arrest him over his failure to turn up in court.

They found that he had six pieces of e-cigarette pods in his possession. Wee was later placed in remand.

On Oct 13, he appeared in court via video link and was charged with one count of drug consumption. He was later released on bail of $20,000.

Instead of keeping out of trouble, he failed to turn up for his urine test on four occasions.

After an argument with his father, Wee used a pair of pliers to cut off his electronic tag - a device used to monitor his movements and ensure he stayed indoors - on Oct 26 and cycled to a friend's home.

The father alerted the police when he could not locate the teen.

Wee was placed back in remand after he failed to turn up in court on Nov 5.

On Monday, the DPP urged the court to sentence the teenager to at least a year of reformative training, stressing that after an assessment, he was found to be unsuitable for probation.

The prosecutor said before Wee was home-schooled, he had been expelled from different schools due to disciplinary issues.

She added that he had committed multiple offences and shown a “blatant disregard” for rules.

Defence lawyer Shashi Nathan asked the court to consider probation for his client. He told District Judge May Mesenas that Wee is a “good boy who had made mistakes” and is willing to change.

If probation was not an option, the lawyer asked for Wee to be given reformative training of a “lower intensity” lasting six months.

He told the judge that Wee had spent three months in remand and has since “sobered up”.