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The Straits Times
November 15, 2022
One of Singapore’s most wanted fugitives, who spent more than 30 years on the run in Thailand after shooting a woman here in a robbery, was sentenced to 18 years’ jail on Tuesday for a series of firearm robberies he committed in 1981.
Chin Sheong Hon, now 72, who has been in custody for more than nine years, would have to spend another 2½ years behind bars, given the usual one-third remission and the backdating of his jail term.
Chin was extradited to Singapore in 2013 after he was released from prison in Thailand. He had been jailed there for taking part in local political protests.
After his arrest in Singapore on June 6, 2013, Chin was charged with committing three robberies between July and November 1981 while armed with a revolver.
However, he was held in a psychiatric ward after being found to be of unsound mind and unfit to stand trial.
Chin, who was diagnosed with delusional disorder in 2015, was certified fit to plead to his original charges in July 2021, deputy public prosecutors Kathy Chu and Timotheus Koh told the High Court on Tuesday.
Chin admitted to robbing Mr Ee Chong Leong in July 1981 of about $16,000 at the former Singapore Shuttle Bus Terminal in Lorong 1 Geylang.
He had pressed a revolver to the victim’s waist and warned him not to raise any alarm.
Three months later, he accosted Mr Chua Boon Leong with a revolver and robbed him of about $1,800 in front of the Overseas Union Bank in Tanjong Katong Road.
In November, he shot Ms Goh Siew Foon while robbing her of $92,000 in front of the Thomson branch of the United Overseas Bank in Lorong Mega.
The gunshot ruptured her stomach and caused lacerations to her lungs, but Ms Goh survived the injuries.
On Tuesday, Chin pleaded guilty to one charge of causing hurt with a deadly weapon while committing robbery and one charge of armed robbery.
Another charge of armed robbery was taken into consideration.
Chin Sheong Hon shot Ms Goh Siew Foon in the back when she and her brother were on their way to the United Overseas Bank branch in Upper Thomson Road, in November 1981. PHOTO: SPH FILE
DPP Koh sought life imprisonment, arguing that it was justified as Chin has been assessed by the Institute of Mental Health to be an unstable character who is at risk of committing similar offences in future.
The prosecutor noted that Chin continues to labour under a mental illness, and that a life term will ensure that Chin has access to medical care in a structured and supervised environment.
In Chin’s case, a life sentence meant 20 years’ imprisonment, with the possibility of remission, as this was how the law stood before the Court of Appeal ruled in 1997 that it was for the duration of the prisoner’s natural life.
Chin’s assigned defence lawyer, Mr Mervyn Cheong, sought a jail term of 13 years and seven months and argued that the risk of Chin reoffending is low because of his advanced age and poor health.
He added that there was no evidence that Chin had committed violence-related offences during the years he was at large.
Mr Cheong noted that the Mental Health (Care and Treatment) Act provides for people with mental health conditions who may pose a danger to others to be held in a designated psychiatric institution.
Justice Pang Khang Chau accepted that there may be a need for Chin to be detained in some institutional arrangement for the protection of the public.
But the judge agreed with the defence that this need not necessarily be achieved by life imprisonment, and said the Act could be invoked to protect the public.