Australian jailed for drunken brawl at Changi Airport has sentence increased

Australian jailed for drunken brawl at Changi Airport has sentence increased
Singapore’s Supreme Court. (PHOTO: Yahoo News Singapore)

An Australian man who was convicted over a drunken brawl with police officers in Changi Airport had his jail term increased by two months on Tuesday (19 September) following an appeal by the prosecution.

Jason Peter Darragh, 44, was jailed eight and a half months’ jail, up from his previous jail sentence of six and a half months imposed last month, for assaulting police officers at the airport’s departure hall while intoxicated. Darragh, who has been in remand since 13 May, was originally due to be released on Friday.

The incident occurred in April this year after Darragh flew into Singapore for a stopover. In a viral video, Darragh was seen resisting arrest and dancing in front of officers. At one point, Darragh was filmed pushing an officer to the ground.

During the appeal hearing in the High Court on Tuesday, the prosecution said that the District Judge (DJ) who first heard Darragh’s case erred in not placing more weight on certain aggravating factors, such as the location of the incident. Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Tan Wen Hsien said that Changi Airport was heavily used by travellers and formed the first impression of Singapore for many.

Darragh’s conduct had resulted in a prolonged standoff with police officers, DPP Tan told the court. He had “publicly humiliated and taunted police officers” and “made a public spectacle of himself and police officers by making them chase him around”, she said. The prosecution submitted for a sentence of eight months and five weeks.

Darragh’s lawyer S S Dhillon reiterated that the injuries suffered by police officers were relatively minor and that the DJ had considered the seriousness of the assault. He argued that the incident was not “protracted” as it had lasted some three and a half minutes.

Darragh has been involved in two other incidents following his arrest on 20 April. He was charged with “causing annoyance” to two different persons on separate occasions on 21 April and 1 May, both while he was drunk. He also pleaded guilty to verbally abusing a police officer who brought him to Tan Tock Seng Hospital on 26 April, after he was found to be too drunk to take care of himself.

For the 20 April incident, Darragh arrived in Changi Airport from Perth during a stopover flight and drank alcohol at the airport before heading to Clarke Quay.

Darragh later returned to the airport in the evening to catch his next flight to Cebu. Just after midnight on 20 April, Darragh, who was drunk, could not find the check-in counter for his flight to the Philippine city. He asked a member of the public for directions to Terminal 2 but later hurled vulgarities at the same person and threw his mobile phone on the floor. The man sought help from police officers who engaged the Australian.

Darragh later became aggressive and shouted vulgarities at police officers, who decided to arrest him. During the exchange, Darragh put on his earphones, danced about and taunted the officers. He later hit one of the officer on the face. Six officers were needed to subdue Darragh.

Justice See Kee Oon, who heard the appeal, agreed with the prosecution that Darragh’s action was “reasonably likely” to trigger public unease and that the standoff was prolonged.

Noting that the offences occurred on the spur of the moment and that the injuries were not serious, Justice See said that the departure hall area was spacious and fairly uncrowded at the point of time.

“The video footage clearly shows the egregiousness of [Darragh’s] conduct, he had obviously acted deliberately and with persistence, intent on obstructing and intimidating police officers. His taunts and verbal abuse demonstrates complete contempt and disregard of authority,” said Justice See.

Darragh’s intoxicated state was an aggravating factor rather than a mitigating factor, said Justice See, adding that there is a need to preserve the reputation and authority of the police.

“Police officers are the most visible among law enforcement officers. they are called upon to deal with all manner of risky, unpredictable and potentially dangerous situations,” he said.

“The courts must firmly uphold their authority each time it is undermined. When offences of such a nature are committed against police officers, there is a strong public interest in ensuring a strong deterrent message is sent.”

For using criminal force to prevent a public servant from discharging his duty, Darragh could have been jailed up to four years and/or fined. For voluntarily causing hurt to a public servant, he could have been jailed up to seven years and/or fined and/or caned.