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Singaporean teen slasher has sentence amended after appeal

by April 22, 2016 General

A screengrab from a video by YouTube user Nicholas Chia of an alleged slashing at ITE College West. — TODAY picA screengrab from a video by YouTube user Nicholas Chia of an alleged slashing at ITE College West. — TODAY pic

SINGAPORE, April 22 — The youth behind last year’s slashing incident at Institute of Technical Education (ITE) College West was given a second chance after an appeal and re-sentenced in the High Court yesterday to reformative training instead of imprisonment.

For his “vicious and gratuitous attack” on a teenager last year, Muhammad Zuhairie Adely Zulkifli, 17, was initially sentenced by a district court judge last November to 18 months’ jail and six strokes of the cane.

He had pleaded guilty to voluntarily causing grievous hurt using a deadly weapon, as well as a separate charge of being part of an unlawful assembly that punched and kicked another victim in April last year.

Justice Chan Seng Onn, who presided over the hearing, said he was willing to give Zuhairie a second chance given his young age, noting that he would have to serve the same period of time in reformative training as he would have in jail.

“You better make full use of this time, you’re still young,” he told the youth after the re-sentencing.

In March last year, Zuhairie had slashed Ahmad Nurthaqif at ITE College West with a 35cm-long bread knife over a dispute involving the latter’s girlfriend.

The incident happened in front of other students and was caught on video.

Apart from having knife wounds across his back, the 18-year-old victim, a part-time cook, also suffered fractures on his forearm and three fingers, and a cut behind his ear.

In the appeal yesterday, Zuhairie’s lawyer highlighted his troubled background: He had grown up in an unstable home witnessing domestic violence between his parents, who were in and out of jail numerous times for various drug and property offences.

By age 12, the courts had placed him in the Muhammadiyah Welfare Home after deciding that he needed better supervision.

Defence lawyer Benny Tan further pointed out that Zuhairie had excelled in his studies at Northlight School and took part actively in activities at the home, such as being involved in leadership camps.

He also showed genuine remorse and is willing to change, with hopes of having a career in the Singapore Armed Forces and joining the national sepak tekraw team. He is now studying to retake his N Levels.

There are two paths ahead for Zuhairie, the lawyer added. Should he be sent to jail, it would send a message that the system is giving up on his reform, but reformative training would give him the “best of both worlds”.

The prosecution, however, argued that reformative training — aimed as a rehabilitative sentencing option for youth offenders lasting from 18 months to three years — was not sufficient. Zuhairie had shown a disregard for law and his actions were premeditated.

Furthermore, his victim had suffered such severe injuries that he was placed on medical leave for three months to undergo hand therapy, deputy public prosecutor Wong Kok Weng said.

Justice Chan, in telling Zuhairie to make good use of the second chance given to him, asked him to learn how to control his temper: “There’s plenty of room and time to improve yourself… You can’t stop people from talking bad about you. Live your own life. Don’t live your life according to others.” — TODAY