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Military court dismisses appeal for longer detention of SAF regular who hid 50 rounds of ammunition

High Court judge Choo Han Teck said, “Any variation to the sentence upwards now will have a greater effect on morale than it would on discipline”

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Singapore — An appeal to extend the detention of an ex-regular from the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) has been dismissed by a military court. The said fromer SAF regular was detained after secretly storing 50 blank rounds after an exercise two years ago. 

In June 2017, after Master Sergeant Chia Shu Sheng, an armor infantry leader from the 40th Battalion Singapore Armoured Regiment, had received the blank rounds from his fellow servicemen, he placed these rounds inside a metal cabinet in his at Keat Hong Camp.

He was fully aware that these needed to be returned to SAF, however.

A few months later when he found out that the camp would be raided by military police, Mr Chia hid the rounds in a fake ceiling so these would not be discovered.

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The rounds were only found during another raid by the military police a few months later.

Mr Chia was sentenced to two weeks detention by a General Court Martial on December 27, 2018, after he admitted to two charges of misappropriating the property of SAF.

On Thursday, August 22, military prosecutors had filed an appeal against this sentence, asking instead for a four month detention for Mr. Chia. Their reason for this is that he is a relatively high-ranking serviceman, and the sergeant major of his company. Furthermore, he had deliberately and actively taken steps to hide the rounds.

But the appeal was dismissed by the Military Court of Appeal, with its panel of five.

According to High Court judge Choo Han Teck who headed the panel, “Any variation to the sentence upwards now will have a greater effect on morale than it would on discipline.”

The detention sentence had been completed by Mr Chia last January, after which he was discharged from the SAF.

The court heard that Mr Chia acted in the way he did to protect the men under him. One of those men, Third Sergeant (3SG) Choo Wei Xiong, did not check the ammunition in the storage box in his armored vehicle prior to the military exercise in 2017 and found a box with 49 un-expended metal blank rounds in the armored vehicle.

He realised that he had not checked the vehicle’s storage box prior to the parade and gave the rounds to Mr Chia.

In the same month, another soldier turned over to Mr Chia an expended plastic blank, which he kept with the others.

According to Mr Chia’s former lawyer, he kept the rounds so that the men would not be punished for not having returned them. He also desired to “prevent the inappropriate disposal of the expended blank round by the soldier who found it”.

The lawyer added that Mr Chia had plans to dispose of the rounds at the next training for general-purpose machine guns (GPMG).

Hee Mee Lin, the military prosecutor, argued, however, that he had created the risk of the rounds falling into the wrong hands, “undermined public confidence” in SAF’s ammunition control measures and called his two-week sentence “manifestly inadequate,” according to a Channel NewsAsia report.

But Mr Chia’s lawyer said that in previous cases of live rounds being taken from SAF camps, the punishment had been detention for only 4-6 weeks.

Additionally, the lawyer pointed out the “extreme” embarrassment he would experience due to his SAF discharge, and that he has to start life all over again without private sector skills. /TISG

Read related: servicemen to be charged in military court in connection with Aloysius Pang’s death

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