SINGAPORE — A teen who did a backflip inside the Singapore Zoo's white rhinoceros enclosure, went on to commit further offences, including abusing drugs, as a result of his breakup with his girlfriend.
Ralph Wee Yi Kai, 19, was ordered to go through assessments for a probation suitability report and a reformative training report on Thursday (25 November) after he pleaded guilty to consuming weed, causing unnecessary suffering to a frog, possessing imitation tobacco products, trespassing into the rhino enclosure, and committing mischief by damaging property belonging to others.
Another six counts of a similar nature will be considered for his sentencing.
Wee, who is homeschooled, had posted a video of his backflip at the zoo enclosure on his TikTok account, as well as a video of him playing foosball with a live frog on the table.
As Wee had also failed to turn up at one of his court mentions, a warrant of arrest was issued and he was then remanded on 6 November. Wee, who was still in remand, appeared before District Judge May Mesenas via videolink for his case's mention on Thursday for him to plead guilty.
Wee's lawyer Shashi Nathan told the court on Thursday that Wee's offences arose from his breakup with his girlfriend, who had filmed the video of his backflip at the rhino enclosure.
Since then, Wee went on a downward spiral as he was in a "severe emotional crisis".
Decided to enter rhino enclosure after watching viral video
The court heard that on 17 December last year, Wee decided to make a video after watching a viral clip of a man who was riding a giraffe. He saw that the fence to the rhino enclosure at the zoo was low, so he trespassed into the compound to make his backflip video.
Wee's then 18-year-old girlfriend filmed the act and posted it on her private Snapchat account, while Wee posted it on his public TikTok account. It was viewed 55,000 times by the time a police report was made by the deputy director of park operations at the zoo later on the same day.
The deputy director had been alerted to the viral video and sought police assistance due to the dangerous nature of the act and for fear of other copycat acts.
Wee later removed the video at the behest of the police, but reposted the video on 18 December, before being told again to remove it. He claimed that he thought the video had been made private when he reposted it.
Wee had also included a link to a page selling T-shirts and hoodies with the words "rhino ralph" in his Instagram account. However, he denied creating the merchandise profile and later removed the link.
Killed friend's frog, smoked cannabis in bedroom
On 24 December last year, Wee was at his friend's home in Sentosa Cove for a Christmas Eve gathering. His friend had bought two packets of frogs for the purpose of a prank.
Wee then placed one of the 17 frogs on a foosball table and directed a ball at high speed towards it. He hit the frog, which died as a result, and the act was filmed by one of his friends. Wee later cut up the dead frog and threw it into a canal.
On 6 August this year, Wee was arrested at his residence and two urine samples obtained from him later tested positive for weed. Wee confessed to smoking cannabis in his bedroom.
On 14 September this year, three police officers went to the Institute of Mental Health (IMH), where Wee was warded, to arrest him for failing to attend his court hearing. Six pieces of e-cigarette pods were seized among his belongings.
Wee had been admitted to IMH due to his drug and alcohol abuse, as he had acted aggressively towards his parents when he demanded for drugs from them, according to the prosecution. He was warded due to the risk he posed to his parents.
Wee was also placed on compulsory supervision for 60 months from 16 December last year. He was required to present himself for urine tests on each Tuesday and Thursday, but failed to turn up on four occasions.
By then, he had been placed on electronic tagging, after having been charged for his earlier offences. He had to stay at home from 10pm to 6am as part of his bail conditions.
On the night of 26 October, Wee became upset at his father, who had asked him to sleep early since he had to report for his urine test in the morning. After arguing with his father, Wee decided to leave the house, and used pliers to cut off his electronic tag before cycling to his friend’s house.
Upon discovering that Wee was missing, his father called the police. The electronic tag, worth $100 and which could no longer be used due to its damage, was found in Wee’s house.
Mischief offences committed last year
Wee also caused damage to public and private property. He went to a friend's house at Crescent Road on 9 October last year, as he was going through a rough patch and wanted to speak to his friend.
However, after leaving the house, he kicked an information panel at a bus stop nearby, causing $900 worth of damage. He also kicked the side mirrors of a Mercedes Benz car, causing $2792.70 in damage.
A taxi driver passing by reported Wee to the police, as the teenager was standing in the middle of the road with a beer bottle in hand.
In seeking a reformative training report, the prosecution said that the case called for deterrence due to Wee's sheer number of charges and his blatant disregard for authority and rules restricting his freedom. The prosecution added that Wee was beyond his parents' control, which made probation unsuitable, as his parents' supervision would be necessary if probation were to be ordered.
However, Shashi maintained that Wee's family was able to supervise him, and that the calling of a probation suitability report should not negate the calling for a reformative training report.
Probation and reformative training are sentencing options for offenders below the age of 21. However, an offender who undergoes probation will not have a criminal record, while reformative training – which involves a more structured regime – results in a criminal record.
Wee will return to court on 20 December for his sentencing.
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