Thursday, August 02, 2012

of Howard Shaw, "SINAGPORE [sic]", and 24 testimonials...

Wow. No kidding. When it's said 'nervous', the paper really means it. To the extent of spelling 'SINGAPORE' wrongly as 'SINAGPORE'. Hur hur. So am I guilty for being fastidious, eh?


Okay, to tell the truth, I too am kind of wondering about those 24 written testimonials presented to the Judge. Why specifically 24?! Is there any limit to such testimonials? If he's such a good character--really--he shouldn't have any trouble to get much more than 24 testimonials, should he? Heck, he should have impressed the Judge. Give him 240 testimonials! Publish them as a book--perhaps, with a fancy title: "Howard Shaw" and its accompanying caption: "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow". Hur hur.

SINAGPORE - Nervous.

It was the only word that Howard Shaw Chai Li could say when approached by The New Paper minutes before he was sentenced on Monday.

Though Shaw, 41, tried to put up a brave front as cameras clicked away as he entered the Subordinate Courts building, his shaky voice betrayed his nervousness.

Earlier in the morning, his lawyer, Senior Counsel Harpreet Singh Nehal, had delivered a 90-minute closing statement about Shaw's "honest and reasonable" mistake in engaging the service of an underage prostitute.

Mr Singh, of Wong Partnership LLP, also presented no less than 24 written testimonials to Senior District Judge See Kee Oon to take into consideration for the sentencing.

But all these could not save Shaw from a jail sentence.

Paid S$500

The grandson of the founder of cinema giant Shaw Organisation was sentenced to 12weeks' jail for paying S$500 for sex with the underage girl at Hotel 81 Bencoolen on Oct 30, 2010.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Sellakumaran had earlier submitted that a sentence of three months' imprisonment would be appropriate.

Paying for sex with anyone under 18 is punishable with jail of up to seven years, a fine, or both.

Shaw's lawyer said he will be appealing against the sentence, and Shaw's police bail of S$10,000 was extended to court bail of the same amount.

An appeal must be submitted within 10 days.

Ten of the 24 written testimonials to Shaw's good character were work-related and came from such high-fliers as a company chairman, managing director, chairman-CEO and top academics.

The other 14 who wrote personal testimonials ran the gamut from other business leaders to a national service (NS) diving buddy to childhood friends to even a former maid.

These testimonies, which portrayed Shaw as an unassuming man who respected people and was a wonderful and loving father, were unsolicited, Mr Singh told the court.

The citation by one of Shaw's former maids described him as a down-to-earth, kind, generous, humble and understanding employer.

She remembered him as a quiet person, but always smiling.

"He never asks for food, he cooks instead! Lots of time (sic) he helped me clean the house when he had a party!" Ms Julie Pondevilla wrote in an e-mail sent to Shaw's mother, MrsLinda Shaw.

"He is a simple man and he doesn't care if he wears the same, old, white T-shirt."

Ms Pondevilla also wrote about how Shaw used to bring home reptiles that would freak her out. And it was Shaw who passed his love of animals and nature to her.

A childhood friend, Ms Karen Seah, who has known him since they were nine, described Shaw as a rare individual who is helpful, patient and tolerant.

"He would always take a person's word and give people the benefit of the doubt," Ms Seah, who went to boarding school and university with Shaw, wrote in her letter.

A retired senior warrant officer, Mr Bob Chia Ngee Huat, recalled how Shaw, while serving NS, had volunteered for the "tough role" of a naval diver.

He also mentioned how Shaw had lent movie posters from his father's company to decorate the camp clubhouse.

Picked up rubbish

Mr James Han, Shaw's former buddy in the Naval Diving Unit, remembered how he was inspired by Shaw at one outing at East Coast Park when Shaw and his family voluntarily picked up rubbish along the coastline.

Others who submitted testimonials included Ms Kay Kuok Oon Kwong, executive chairman of Shangri-la Hotel, Associate Professor Simon Tay of National University of Singapore's law faculty and Mr Jopie Ong, group managing director of Metro Holdings Limited.

In his closing remarks, Mr Singh reiterated how Shaw had made an "honest and reasonable" mistake.

And the offence had taken place five years after Shaw's divorce and over a year before he remarried.

"In short, he was single at that time," MrSingh told the court.

He said that the common law has long recognised that a person who commits an act under an honest and reasonable mistaken belief is treated, in the eyes of the law, as morally blameless because he lacks criminal intent.

"The question to be asked in this case is: What possible public policy objective is served in sending to jail someone who has no criminal intent, who makes an honest and reasonable mistake and genuinely believes he is engaging in perfectly lawful conduct? Why won't a fine do?" he added.

Mr Singh said it was the underage prostitute who had engaged in predatory conduct, entrapping men who were entirely unaware of her deception.

But Judge See said the fact that Shaw did not ask the girl about her age or make any effort to verify her age, showed it was not an "honest and reasonable mistake".

"It may have been a genuine mistake, but not an honest and reasonable one. He made no enquiries about her age and went ahead to have sex with her. He could have been guarded against an offence, but he took the risk," the judge added.

"Perception is subjective and prone to errors and lies. Our senses are not always reliable and prone to mistakes."

Shaw must have realised the risk that he was putting himself into, should she not be 18, added Judge See.
From Asiaone, "24 testimonials couldn't save Howard Shaw".

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