Swiss Vandal's Jail Term for Spray Painting Train in Singapore Is Extended
Swiss executive Oliver Fricker must spend an additional two months in jail for breaking into a Singapore depot and spray-painting a commuter train, an appeals judge ruled, extending the sentence to seven months.
Appeals Judge V.K. Rajah dismissed Fricker’s appeal of the original five-month sentence for trespassing and vandalism today, agreeing to a request by prosecutors for a longer prison term.
Fricker, 32, along with a British accomplice, broke into SMRT Corp.’s depot and spray-painted a train with the words “McKoy Banos” on May 17. The executive, in an orange jumpsuit with a beige windbreaker and a crew cut, hung his head as the judge read the sentence.
Fricker’s act was “audacious” and the two months he received for trespassing was “manifestly inadequate,” Rajah said prior to handing down the sentence that extended the term to four months. Fricker’s three-month sentence for vandalism and three strokes of the cane remain unchanged.
Vandalism, a misdemeanor in countries including the U.S., U.K. and Switzerland, carries a mandatory caning sentence in Singapore. The caning of U.S. teenager Michael Fay in 1994, for damaging cars and having stolen goods, drew international attention to Singapore’s penalties for vandalism. The Southeast Asian city has caned at least 20 foreigners for vandalism offenses since 1999, according to its Subordinate Courts.
While the city’s vandalism laws are severe, they are responsible for a clean environment and a low crime rate, Rajah said.
Fricker had been in Singapore since October, 2008, and had worked as a software consultant at Zurich-based financial software maker Comit AG. Comit hasn’t been in touch with Fricker since he pleaded guilty, Fricker’s lawyer Derek Kang said.
“We had graffiti experts from England and Switzerland who came here to show that they can break our laws,” Singapore Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew said on June 29. “Well, we caught one of them and he has to pay the penalty. It’s harsh, but that is the way to keep it.”
The incident led SMRT President Saw Phaik Hwa to apologize for the “serious security lapse” and she pledged to step up vigilance. The train was in service for two days as staff thought the graffiti was an advertisement.
The city-state, which has one of the world’s lowest crime rates according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes, imposes the death penalty for offenses including murder and drug trafficking.
“This was a stunt that was plainly designed to attract international notoriety,” the judge said. “The offending behavior is not just an act of crass vandalism, but one accompanied by a planned break-in into a protected place.”
Fricker is “obviously disappointed,” Kang told reporters. “It was never meant to be a big publicity stunt. He’s paying a very heavy price for a single, foolish, act.”
Deputy Public Prosecutor Kan Shuk Weng had sought an additional two to four months in jail for Fricker on the trespassing charge. She didn’t seek to extend the sentence for vandalism.
Those convicted for vandalism in Singapore may be jailed for as long as three years or fined as much as S$2,000 ($1,480) and receive between three and eight strokes of a cane. Trespassers into a protected area may be fined S$1,000 and jailed for as long as two years. Caning has been abolished in countries including the U.K., Germany and Hong Kong.
Had the prosecution asked for a longer vandalism term, Rajah said he would have been inclined to have increased it.
Fricker should consider himself fortunate in that “he has not received his just desserts in full,” the judge said. “Future like-minded offenders must also be firmly deterred from being tempted into copy-cat offending.”
The case is Fricker Oliver v Public Prosecutor MA232/2010 in the Singapore High Court.