Spike in crime: Singaporean guilty of toothpicks in bus seats

SINGAPORE: A 60-year-old Singaporean pleaded guilty to "mischief" Wednesday after he was caught sticking toothpicks in bus seats, a case that highlights the tightly-controlled country's tough approach to even minor crimes.

The city-state, whose crime rates are among the world's lowest, has harsh laws for minor offences such as vandalism, which can be punished with caning. The import and sale of chewing gum is banned except for medical reasons.

Lim Lye Seng admitted the offence at a district court and asked to be fined, although prosecutors are pushing for him to be jailed. The offence of "mischief" carries a maximum one-year jail term.

He is due to be sentenced in November.

"I am pleading for your honour's leniency," Lim told the court through an interpreter, adding he was supporting two young children and elderly parents.

Lim stuck toothpicks in bus seats four times between July and August and told investigators he did it as a prank because he was bored, according to prosecutors.

The case came to light after a Facebook user posted pictures of three toothpicks sticking out of a bus seat, and the image went viral.

Singapore has faced criticism from rights groups about cracking down hard on relatively minor crimes. In 2015 two young German men were sentenced to nine months in prison and three strokes of the cane for spray-painting a metro train. — AFP