German graffiti vandals ordered jailed, caned in Singapore

5th March 2015, Comments 0 comments

A Singapore court on Thursday sentenced two young German men to nine months in prison and three strokes of the cane for spray-painting a metro train in the city-state, which enforces hardline rules on vandalism.

Andreas Von Knorre, 22, and Elton Hinz, 21, were sentenced after pleading guilty to vandalism and trespassing. Both asked for mercy before sentencing and called their acts a "stupid mistake".

"The imprisonment sentence in this case will be a total of nine months... and the mandatory minimum of three strokes of the cane," District Judge Liew Thiam Leng said.

"Overall, the court is of the view that the circumstances and facts of this case will justify the proposed sentence given by the prosecution," he added.

Caning is a punishment dating back to British colonial rule in Singapore and involves being flogged with a rattan stick which often leaves permanent scars.

The men were sentenced to four months in jail for breaking into a suburban train depot operated by state-linked SMRT in November 2014 and five months and three strokes of the cane for vandalising a carriage with spray paint.

Both men fled Singapore after the incident but were caught in neighbouring Malaysia en route to Australia, where they were working, and extradited.

The hearing in the packed courtroom, filled with German and other international journalists, was delayed for around two hours because an interpreter was not available.

Both men, handcuffed and dressed in white and brown prison attire, requested to speak directly to the judge before he handed down the sentence.

"This is the darkest episode of my entire life... I am very angry with myself and my foolish act, and I want to apologise to the state of Singapore for my stupid mistake," Van Knorre said in English.

- 'Stupid mistake' -

Hinz also described the offence as a "stupid mistake" when he addressed the judge.

"I promise you I will never do this again, and I not only apologise to you but to my family because of the shame this situation has put them into," he added.

State prosecutors said Von Knorre and Hinz, who are friends, arrived in Singapore from Australia on November 4, 2014 and stayed at a hotel.

In the wee hours of November 7, they first sneaked into the train depot through a drainage system and by scaling a wall. They surveyed the area for a short while before leaving.

The following day, the duo again sneaked into the depot where they proceeded to spray paint graffiti measuring 1.8 metres (1.97 yards) in height and 10 metres in length on a train carriage.

A German diplomatic source said that while Berlin respected Singapore's jurisdiction, it "opposes corporal punishment worldwide, including in Singapore. The government has made this point clear."

In written submissions to the court, state prosecutor Timotheus Koh said "these are not offences committed by rash and impressionable persons".

"The evidence indicates that the offences were committed after thorough, meticulous, deliberate and elaborate planning," he said.

Koh added that a "self-timed" photograph the two men had taken in front of the train before vandalising it "was meant to serve as a trophy to gain notoriety".

The total cleaning cost incurred by state-linked metro operator due to the vandalism was Sg$13,650 ($9,970), according to court documents.

Singapore, a leading Asian financial hub, is known for its tough stance on crime.

Its vandalism laws became global news in 1994 when an American teenager, Michael Fay, was caned for damaging cars and public property despite an appeal for clemency from the punishment by then President Bill Clinton.

In 2010 Swiss expatriate Oliver Fricker was sentenced to seven months in jail and three strokes of the cane after he used spray paint to vandalise a train at a depot.


© 2015 AFP

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