A viral video, and a few rather comical memes, has been circulating about a Phoon Chiu Yoke. She was filmed refusing to wear a face mask at Marina Bay Sand despite being told to do so by a safe distancing ambassador. Phoon did not explain why she felt that she did not have to wear a mask but instead asked the safe distancing officer to show her her badge. She then elaborated to say that the safe distancing officer did not put on her badge and that if she “had no badge then why [was she] asking [her] to do something?”
Here is a video of the incident and some other incidents involving Phoon which I found on YouTube:
So what are the possible offences which she might have committed?
For this, we have to look at the COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) (Control Order) Regulations 2020. This is a subsidiary legislation.
Section 3(A) of the COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) (Control Order) Regulations 2020 states
3A. – (1) Every Individual –
(a) must wear a mask at all times when the individual is not in his or her ordinary place of residence; and
(b) must ensure that every child of 6 years of age and above and who is escorted by the individual, wears a mask at all times, when not in the child’s or individual’s ordinary place of residence.
Phoon was not wearing a mask at all times and clearly, Marina Bay Sands could not be her ordinary place of residence thus an offence under section 3(A)(1) of the COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) (Control Order) Regulations 2020 was made out by her actions.
We must then see if any exceptions can apply to her situation by looking at section 3(B) of the COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) (Control Order) Regulations 2020
3(A)(2) However, However, paragraph (1) does not apply –
(a) when the individual or child is engaging in any strenuous physical exercise outdoors;
(b) when lawfully directed by a person to remove the mask in order to ascertain the identity of the individual or child;
(c) when travelling in a motor car or van alone or where the driver and every other passenger in the motor car or van ordinarily lives with the individual in the same place of residence, or when riding a motorcycle (whether or not in the course of employment);
(d) when carrying out, in the course of employment, an activity that requires that no mask may be worn, or that it must be removed in order that other equipment may be worn or used, to carry out that activity, but only to the extent and in the circumstances authorised by these Regulations or any other Control Order Regulations to not wear a mask where the extent or circumstances are expressly provided by these or those Regulations;
(e) when consuming food, drink or medication;
(f) when the individual or child is undergoing dental or medical care or treatment to the extent that such care or treatment requires that no mask be worn;
(g) when the individual or child is receiving an authorised service from a permitted enterprise which is operating in accordance with these Regulations and any other Control Order Regulations, but only –
i) to the extent that it is otherwise not reasonably practicable to receive that service wearing a mask; and
ii) within the limit these Regulations expressly place on unmasked individuals connected with that authorised service provided; or
(h) when the individual or child is otherwise authorised by regulation 3B or any other Control Order Regulations to not wear a mask.
Regulation 3B refers to when face shields may be worn instead. This did not apply to Phoon’s situation as well. There is also no other Control Order Regulations at the time of the office for her to not wear a mask.
Phoon was not engaging in any of these activities under section 3(A)(2) and thus the exceptions to the offence made out in 3(A)(1) did not apply.
Next would be to talk about the sentencing options if Phoon were to be found guilty of the offence. (Please note that at the point of this blog post, Phoon has yet to be convicted of an offence. She has the opportunity to be heard in court and defend herself of any charges)
For sentencing options, we would have to look at the COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) Act 2020.
Section 34(7) of this act states that
A person who, without reasonable excuse, contravenes a control order, commits an offence and shall be liable on conviction –
(a) to a fine not exceeding $10,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months or to both; or
(b) in the case of a second or subsequent offence, to a fine not exceeding $20,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or to both.
Thus, unless Phoon has a reasonable excuse, she would be facing a fine not exceeding $10,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months or to both.
This case is similar to the case of Paramjeet Kaur. Kaur had failed to wear a mask at Shunfu Mart and refused to do so despite passers-by asking her to. She also refused to wear a mask even when offered one. She claimed that she was a sovereign and the police did not have any say over her. She claimed to have asthma and depression as her defence but she was found to be mentally sound when she was remanded at the Institute of Mental Health. Kaur was jailed for two weeks and fined $2,000. She had pled guilty to two charges: failing to wear a mask over her nose and mouth while she was outside her residence, and for public nuisance. Five other charges were taken into consideration. Three for breaching COVID-19 regulations and the other two were for failing to report her change of home address and for refusing to sign her statement at a police station.
Similarly, Phoon was seen, and recorded, on multiple occasions not wearing a mask in public. If Phoon were found to be of sound mind and not having a reasonable excuse just like Kaur, her sentencing would be similar to Kaur’s.
p.s. This is not legal advice. This is just an attempt by a law student to apply the law to a situation in real life. If you need legal advice, please contact a lawyer.
p.p.s. Click here for the COVID-19 (Temporary Measures)(Control Order) Regulations and click here for the COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) Act 2020.