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The Straits Times
Feb 24, 2023
Social media influencer Wendy Cheng, more popularly known as Xiaxue, was called as a witness in the trial of Phoon Chiu Yoke, who is accused of not wearing a mask in Orchard Road.
Dubbed “Badge Lady”, Phoon, 55, who represented herself in court during the first day of the trial on Friday, is contesting four charges – three for failing to wear a mask when it was mandatory to do so.
Amid the Covid-19 pandemic, wearing masks outdoors only became optional in Singapore from March 29, 2022.
Ms Cheng, 38, was called to testify as a prosecution witness. She said that around 3pm on March 6, she was filming a video for a client outside Mandarin Gallery in Orchard Road when she saw Phoon walking past without wearing a mask.
“I was filming when I saw the ‘Badge Lady’ – that’s what I know her as – and I rushed forward to take a video,” said Ms Cheng in court.
She added: “I did not want to approach her too closely as that would be too confrontational, so I used my phone to zoom in.”
Phoon, a Singaporean, contested the “validity of the evidence”, saying there were no date and time stamps on the video Ms Cheng took on her mobile phone nor was there any proof that it was not edited or altered.
Ms Cheng’s cameraman Kent Lee was also called as a prosecution witness. He said he was outside Mandarin Gallery filming Ms Cheng talking to a member of the public for a video when he saw Phoon walk by.
Footage from a CCTV camera outside the Hugo Boss store at Mandarin Gallery was played in court, and Mr Lee identified himself in the video.
In cross-examining Mr Lee, Phoon questioned the reliability of the video and repeatedly asked how he could identify himself in it.
Phoon said she could only see someone dressed in black and was unable to see Mr Lee’s face as he was wearing a mask, adding: “How can you identify yourself as the person in this video? It could be anybody with your size and build standing there. How can I trust that the person standing there is you?”
Mr Lee said: “I have no reason to lie.” He also said that he could produce the clothing he was wearing and the camera he used.
In September 2022, Phoon was handed two charges of failing to wear a mask on March 6, 2022.
The first was for walking maskless along Mandarin Gallery in Orchard Road from 3.02pm to 3.04pm, and the second for not wearing a mask while walking past a Victoria’s Secret outlet between 3.35pm and 3.37pm.
Phoon was also handed a charge for walking in Ion Orchard without a mask on Aug 16, 2022, from 11.48am to 12.03pm.
Mask-wearing indoors in places such as malls was made optional only on Aug 29.
Phoon also faces a charge for allegedly failing to turn up at the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) in Orchard Spring Lane as required by a health officer who was then conducting an investigation. The investigation was in relation to an offence under the Covid-19 (Temporary Measures) (Control Order) Regulations 2020, when Phoon had allegedly not worn a mask in March 2022.
The prosecution called Mr Baharudeen Ali Mohamed Kassim, the lead investigation officer at STB, as a witness.
Mr Baharudeen said he collected closed-circuit television footage covering different angles from Mandarin Gallery’s security office, and then cut and stitched the clips together.
Phoon questioned the reliability of clips stitched together, saying: “How do I know no other edits were made?”
District Judge Tan Jen Tse asked Phoon if she would like to see the raw footage and said he took her point that “there was a certain amount of cutting and pasting” to form the video.
He called for an ancillary hearing to determine whether the video had been tampered with. An ancillary hearing is a separate hearing conducted to determine if evidence produced by the prosecution is admissible.
The trial continues on Monday.
Phoon first made headlines when she was caught on video not wearing a mask at Marina Bay Sands on May 15, 2021. The 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.”
Phoon was hauled to court later that month and was handed five charges under the Covid-19 (Temporary Measures) Act.
After she was charged in 2021 over her earlier offences, Phoon walked out of the State Courts building, removed her mask in front of members of the media and smiled.
She was sentenced to 16 weeks’ jail in September 2021 after pleading guilty to nine charges, including not wearing a mask in public places and breaching a stay-home notice.