The BMW owner committed no crime, but the internet may have

I think this vigilante behaviour is wrong. I won’t be very popular for saying it, but it is wrong. 

Firstly, there is no crime. Nothing he did breaches any legislation. He did not hit, attack, raise public alarm or any other thing contrary to the penal code.

No. It is not theft. An important component of theft is removing an item without consent. No, it is not conspiracy, it is not cheating …it is not any of these colourful ideas you have. It is not until he has proven to have committed this same act elsewhere.

There wasn’t even a tortious act capable of a civil suit on the side of the BMW owner. If he had been a nuisance, the petrol station staff could have asked him to leave, failing which he would have committed an act of trespassing. But on the facts, no such thing happened.

He may have been an idiot, but it is not a crime to be an idiot. It is fully within his rights to accept compensation from either the petrol station or the elderly worker. After all, it is very likely an oil giant will not allow the elderly worker pay for it. 

If you were served a dish at the restaurant, that you didn’t ask for. Wouldn’t you have asked for the dish to be taken back? 

He shouldn’t have raised his voice at the elderly worker (and this is just assuming he did), and there are many other ways to get back his money. But all these are questions of morals, not law. By attacking this guy on social media and harassing him in real life, we have lost our moral high ground. He may now tell you that since society is like this, he is just a piece of society. 

He has now went on media to say that he was about to sell the car and wanted to top up just enough to give it to the garage.

When it comes to legality, he now has so many options on his hands. 

He can pursue a claim of defamation on the original poster. He would be advised by his lawyers that her words appeared to be material that was calculated to injure his reputation and it certainly has. Remedies for injury is determined by the damage that is done to him. If he has lost his job, his clients or damaged his repute as a person of high standing or net worth , all these is compensable by the defendant.

If he is unable to sell the car, this may form a part of the claim. The defendant is at risk of footing the bill to make the car unidentifiable.

Persons that have posted his personal data or stalked him is at risk of both an act of harassment that is protected by the Protection from Harassment Act. Breach of PoHA carries with it a fine of not exceeding $5,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months.

I am against vigilante behaviour. Even where there is a crime committed, parties in the justice system should be the only people investigating, trying and doing the conviction. 

We keep hearing the words “.. people witness its not his first time for such actions..” but where is the proof? Where are the other videos or at least personal accounts from someone willing to testify? If this doesn’t exist, then it is merely hearsay.

Singapore prides itself on the rule of law. This is what makes our country stable, peaceful and fair to live in. 

The principles of the rule of law had been painstakingly built over the centuries. Men have literally died defending it and contributing to it. This is what it means:

  • No man is above the law
  • No man is given more punishment than he deserves
  • Justice will allow the other party be heard
  • No one shall be a judge in his own case

Today, netizens have breached all of this and it is not a proud moment. It means that every time something goes wrong on social media, we are all at danger of being hauled up in a witch hunt at the internet’s pleasure.

Trial by social media – how do you like that?

On the facts, he was just an irate customer asking for compensation and until fraud or any other alleged act is proven or at least stated as fact, BMW driver did nothing wrong.

About the author

Tay Leong Tan

Tay Leong Tan is a collective of 3 writers. Tay, Leong and Tan. (Who were you expecting?!) We are enthusiastic about labour issues, economics and current affairs in particular.

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8 Comments

  • He can only prove his innocence from a trade in receipt from the car dealer and the transaction documents proof of another car he brought. Dealer will have to be witness and testify. Can he prove those? If he is still driving the car after the incident, he is most likely suspected of cheating.

    Once upon a time, a man instructed his designer cum renovation contractor to renovate his home. After completion, he told the contractor that he is not going to pay because the design and materials used was not what he had wanted.

    • The law of contracts requires the contractor re-do it according to what was agreed, either that or un-do the work where possible. Or have the contract void, make no payment or partial payment for work that is already done. Either way, the customer needs to spend money to undo the unwanted work.

  • i read that it’s not his first time using this trick ‘fill 10’ sounds like full tank-and usually target elderly…

    • If you’ve read the text:
      “We keep hearing the words “.. people witness its not his first time for such actions..” but where is the proof? Where are the other videos or at least personal accounts from someone willing to testify? If this doesn’t exist, then it is merely hearsay.”

      Everyone “heard”/”read” it from somewhere. No one has given proof that he has indeed done it before.

    • How do we know if the accounts are real? I can also anyhow claim I heard him say this and that. It is not fair to judge unless you are involve.

    • Did anyone verify carefully if he actually used similar tricks previously? We don’t have a choice on what we get to see, especially the virulent ones on social media these days. But we must have the astuteness, rationality, and calmness to process what was given to us.

    • I read that elsaelsa dont know what is heresay, never read and article properly, and likes to believe everything on the internet…

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