From ‘ Illegal ads a sticking point for HDB residents’, 12 May 2013, article by Lim Yan Yang and Lim Yi Han, Sunday Times
Now that Singapore’s “Sticker Lady” has been sentenced in court for mischief, some Housing Board residents are wondering if they will see the end of a sticky problem they have been living with for years. They say locksmiths, real estate agents and providers of all sorts of services paste small advertisements and labels all over the place, and seem to get away with it.
Tampines resident Francis Cheng contacted The Sunday Times and said he has put up with ads and calling cards that have been stuck to his meter box, doorbell, gate and on the railings along the common corridor. “It’s a nuisance. I peel it off and a few days later they paste it back,” said the 40-year-old business manager. Competing businessmen sometimes leave layers of overlapping stickers that are just unsightly, he added.
…The police website refers the public with such “non-police matters” to relevant agencies such as town councils and the LTA….Technically, the law has penalties for unauthorised advertisements, under the Vandalism Act and the Miscellaneous Offences (Public Order and Nuisance) Act.
But lawyers said the courts are unlikely to act against businesses that do not adhere to the rules unless home owners pursue the matters themselves by lodging a magistrate’s complaint. “Some might argue that it’s a slippery slope: if you don’t arrest them, they will paste more stickers,” said criminal lawyer Amolat Singh. “But the courts operate under the de minimis principle, which means the law does not concern itself with trivialities.”
He said the law must strike a balance between the fact that advertisements promote a commercial service – unlike in the Sticker Lady case – and that most people do not view them as mischief or vandalism.
Most of the locksmiths, plumbers and air-conditioning repairmen The Sunday Times called declined to talk about their ads but one argued that his sticker has helped many people. The 40-year-old locksmith, who declined to be named, said: “Those who complain are those who haven’t had their door spoilt or forgotten their keys.”
I have to admit I once benefited from a vandal’s calling card stuck on a letter box. My door was jammed and I had no one to call. It was, for my intents and purposes, an emergency and I remain grateful enough to close one eye to rival locksmiths tearing each others’ stickers or sticking their ads on top of each other outside my house as long as it’s not on my gate. Property flyers on the other hand, are a downright nuisance, the only consolation being sometimes they come with eye candy amidst the eyesore, on which I’d waste a couple of seconds of my life ogling before tossing it away for recycling.
So we have one group of people running foul of Vandalism laws, another being annoying Litterbugs, with neither getting arrested for their deeds, while a graffiti artist with better aesthetic taste when it comes to stickers gets charged for mischief and has to serve 240 hours of community service. If Samantha Lo had inserted an additional line in her Press Until Shiok stickers advertising swimming lessons and a fake number, maybe the law would consider her actions ‘trivial’ as well.
I can’t say, however, that MOST people don’t mind such rampant defacement. Maybe some folks like myself do benefit from sticky ads, whether it’s breaking into their own house urgently or selling their homes at cushy prices. But I’m certain there are many who find it more disruptive and polluting than Sam Lo’s street work, so I question the lawyer’s assumption unless he had run a nationwide survey to ask Singaporeans what they think of sticker ads. There’s also a suggestion of exemption from penalty if your sticker is about a ‘commercial service’ rather than ‘art’. Which means there’s a chance you may be an illegal landlord, uncertified driving instructor or maybe even a prostitute sticking ads willy-nilly and not get caught. What if you’re spreading the gospel through stickers, like what happened in 1977 with a ‘I found it’ campaign? (‘It’ meaning ‘a life in Jesus Christ’). Would the authorities have hauled in a church leader for ‘mischief’ or use some fancy legal Latin term to convince us that he did no wrong?
It also begs the question of what exactly the law considers a ‘triviality’ which it doesn’t concern itself with. One man’s triviality is another’s outrage. If Sticker Lady had simply pasted ONE offending sticker in town, maybe less than 2 cm in radius, would it be ‘trivial’ enough to adhere to the ‘de minimis’ principle? One HDB owner’s complaint may be trivial, but if EVERY level on EVERY block of HDB flats reports a case of sticker vandalism, surely it becomes a PROBLEM, one that I forsee our authorities and courts will no doubt be STUCK on.
Filed under: 1970s, 2013, Advertisements, Environment, HDB, Justice system/Lawsuits, Public works, Religion | Tagged: Advertisements, environment, HDB, justice system, littering, Public works, Religion, vandalism | 1 Comment »