Singapore lawyer spared jail in "cry for help" theft

Other News Materials 23 April 2008 11:48 (UTC +04:00)

A top Singapore lawyer who stole items worth 1,200 US dollars from a Hong Kong hotel room has been spared jail after a judge determined the crime was a cry for help, the dpa reported Wednesday.

Choy Chee Yean, a 40-year-old arbitration lawyer, was given a 12-month jail sentence that was suspended for two years Tuesday after earlier pleading guilty to burglary, the South China Morning Post said.

Choy is a partner at Rajah and Tann, one of Singapore's biggest law firms, where he earns about 700,000 Singapore dollars (500,000 US dollars) annually specializing in infrastructure projects.

At a hearing Monday, the prosecution said Choy had been caught on a security camera on the night of January 17 loitering outside a room at the Novotel Citygate Hotel in Tung Chung on Lantau Island.

Several items taken from the room - including an iPod Nano, a mobile phone charger and Bluetooth earphones - were discovered by police in the lawyer's room a few hours later, the prosecution said.

Defence barrister Andrew Bruce said Choy was under great stress at the time of the theft and was upset after a client failed to appear for a meeting.

Two specialists in psychiatry testified for the defence regarding Choy's mental state when he committed the crime with one saying Choy was in a weakened state of mind because of untreated depression.

In passing the suspended sentence, District Court Judge Patrick Li told Choy to seek psychiatric help.