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Student illegally goes fishing at S’pore nature reserve, assaults NParks officer, get probation

Once Tan finished packing up his gear, he tried to flee and hit the officer's arm and upper chest with his left elbow in the process.

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Singapore – On July 25 (Thursday), a polytechnic student appeared before the court and pleaded guilty to his charges – fishing illegally at the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve and hurting a National Parks Board (NParks) officer while trying to escape arrest.

On July 8, Richard Tan Han Woon, 20, along with three other young men, were spotted by an NParks officer fishing at the Visitor Centre Freshwater Pond at the reserve.

The “No Fishing” signs surrounding the area were not successful in keeping the young men away.

The NParks officer, Sri Sarasvathi, 37, called her colleagues to inform them of the sighting and approached the young men to issue them summon slips.

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As the three officers were closing in on their targets from the two entrances of the pond, they were spotted by the illegal fishermen who began fleeing the scene.

Tan experienced some delay during his escape plan when his fishing gear fell out of his bag and was eventually detained by one of the officers.

His three companions successfully escaped at that moment.

Tan was allowed to go back for his equipment; however, officer Sri Sarasvathi was two steps ahead and perceived Tan’s intentions of making a run for it.

She stood in front of Tan as he collected his belongings.

Her instincts were spot-on. Once Tan finished packing, he tried to flee and hit the officer’s arm and upper chest with his left elbow in the process.

Tan managed to catch up with his friends at the entrance of the main road and scattered in different directions when they saw the officers hot on the chase.

Tan and one of his companions were arrested.

He admitted that he disregarded the warning signs and continued fishing, knowing it was illegal. He added that he made a run for it because he did not want to be caught, fined, or have his fishing gear confiscated, reported CNA.

Appearing before District Judge May Mesenas on Thursday, Tan told the court that he only wanted to escape and had no intention to hit anyone.

Officer Sarasvathi suffered tenderness over her chest, arm, and shoulder blade because of the incident.

District Judge Mesenas revealed that Tan had a record with the police and had been picked up three times before the latest scrape with the law.

The judge, who glimpsed at Tan’s polytechnic records, inquired why the student has not been regularly attending school, to which Tan replied that those classes were ungraded.

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

Tan was sentenced to 15 months of probation and 100 hours of community service.

Tan’s parents provided a bond of S$5,000 to vouch for his good behaviour.

The student could have been fined up to S$5,000 for illegal fishing plus seven years of jail, fined, caned, or a combination of these penalties for voluntarily causing hurt to the NParks officer.

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