SINGAPORE – A police senior staff sergeant who purposely damaged a walking stick belonging to former businessman Zeng Guoyuan claimed that he had stepped on it when he “lost his balance”.
Seah Chin Peng, 48, also told Inspector Paige Tan another untruth by stating that the $28 walking stick was later thrown away by members of the public during the incident which happened on Oct 31, 2016, in Waterloo Street.
However, footage taken from a body-worn camera used by Sergeant Durganivashini Yogendran showed Seah deliberately stepping on Mr Zeng’s walking stick before arresting him.
The clip also showed Seah placing it at the back of a police car and then driving away.
On Friday (June 28), Seah pleaded guilty to committing mischief by damaging Mr Zeng’s walking stick.
Following a trial, District Judge Brenda Tan also found Seah guilty on two counts of giving false information to Insp Tan. Seah has been suspended from service since Oct 6, 2017.
Mr Zeng earned the nickname “Parrot Man” after blaming his pet parrot for getting him arrested and charged with using abusive language on two police officers. He was then fined $2,500.
The 65-year-old, who was diagnosed with nose cancer in 2014, had contested the 1991 General Election as an opposition candidate.
He went on to make several unsuccessful bids to stand in other elections.
Following his surgery, he told the media that he was making a living by selling tissue paper outside the Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho temple in Waterloo Street.
On the day of the incident, police had received a complaint that Mr Zeng was “begging and causing nuisance” outside the temple.
When Seah and Sgt Durganivashini arrived at around 10.30am, Seah asked to take a look at Mr Zeng’s walking stick and the older man handed it to him.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Deborah Lee said: “The accused told Zeng that he may hurt people with the walking stick and it was not good for him to carry it.
“The accused then knocked the walking stick several times on the floor… before stepping hard on the walking stick with his right foot and causing it to become bent and diminish in utility.”
Infuriated when he saw this, Mr Zeng hurled vulgarities at Seah who arrested him for disorderly behaviour and using abusive language against a public servant.
Mr Zeng was taken to the Central Police Divisional Headquarters but the court heard that no further action was taken against him.
DPPs Lee and Peggy Pao stated in their submissions that Seah had admitted that “it was not in accordance with proper procedure to intentionally damage an arrested subject’s property”.
They added: “He knew that such an act could give rise to negative consequences, including disciplinary action being taken against him.”
Seah then lied to Insp Tan on Oct 31 and Nov 3, 2016.
The officer, who is represented by lawyer Sofia Bakhash, had testified during the trial that he has issues with his memory after suffering a stroke in February that year.
He had told Judge Tan: “Why I stepped on the walking stick, I don’t know the cause… I can’t elaborate more on why I spoilt (it).”
However, the DPPs stated in their submissions that there was no “objective medical evidence” on his claim of memory loss.
Seah is now out on bail of $15,000 and is expected to be sentenced on July 22.
Responding to queries from The Straits Times, police said that they have started disciplinary proceedings against Seah following his conviction on Friday.
The police spokesman added: “Officers of the Singapore Police Force are expected to uphold the law and maintain the highest standards of conduct and integrity.
“Officers who break the law will be dealt with severely and charged.”
For each count of lying to Insp Tan, Seah can be jailed for up to a year and fined up to $5,000.
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