SINGAPORE: A polytechnic student who elbowed a National Parks Board (NParks) officer in an attempt to escape after being caught fishing illegally was sentenced to 15 months’ probation on Thursday (Jul 25).

Richard Tan Han Woon, 20, also has to perform 100 hours of community service.

He had pleaded guilty to a charge each for illegal fishing and for voluntarily causing hurt to the NParks officer with intent to prevent her from discharging her duty as a public servant.

Tan was fishing with three other young men at the Visitor Centre Freshwater Pond in Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve at about 3pm on Jul 8 last year.

The men, who had been spotted fishing there before by an NParks officer, had their fishing rods out at the pond, which had “No Fishing” signs placed around it.

The NParks officer called a colleague about the sighting and approached the anglers with the victim, 37-year-old NParks officer Sri Sarasvathi, intending to issue summon slips to them.

While the three officers were making their way to the two entrances to the pond, the young men saw them and began fleeing to the main road.

Tan was trying to pack when his fishing gear fell out of his bag and he was detained by one of the officers, who grabbed his arm and asked him to stop moving.

By this time, the three other anglers had escaped. 

Tan asked for permission to pack his fishing gear and was allowed to do so, heading back to the pond to get his equipment.

However, the victim sensed that he did not intend to cooperate and stood in front of him to ensure that he did not escape.

True enough, once he had packed his things, Tan suddenly used his left elbow to hit the officer’s arm and upper chest with force, intending to flee.

Although the officers tried to detain him, he managed to break free and fled with them on his tail.

He caught up with his three friends at the entrance of the main road, and they ran in different directions when they saw the officers giving chase.

The officers managed to detain one of Tan’s friends, while Tan fled with the other two.

Tan was later identified by the police and arrested. He admitted that he had fished there despite knowing that it was illegal.

He also said that he had run away from the officers as he did not want to be caught, fined, or have his fishing equipment confiscated.

The officer he had elbowed suffered tenderness over her chest, arm and over her shoulder blade.

Tan told the court on Thursday that the thought in his head was merely to escape, and that he had not planned to hit anyone.

In response, District Judge May Mesenas said Tan had previous scrapes with the law and had been picked up by the police three times before this incident.

JUDGE ASKS HIM ABOUT SCHOOL ATTENDANCE, GRADES

She looked at his polytechnic records and asked why he had not been attending school regularly.

Tan answered that those classes were ungraded.

To this, the judge asked what his GPA was, and when he answered, asked if he was satisfied with it.

He admitted that he was not and said he would study harder.

“Fishing is your hobby, fine, if it helps to relieve stress,” said the judge. “But there are designated areas where you can go.”

She also addressed Tan on his anger issues and his fights with his parents. His father told the court that Tan’s temper has improved a lot.

His parents furnished a bond of S$5,000 to ensure his good behaviour.

For fishing illegally, Tan could have been fined up to S$5,000. He could have been jailed for up to seven years, fined, caned, or given any combination of these penalties for hurting the NParks officer.