Prosecution appeals for lower sentence for 'hit-and-run' cyclist
It was an unusual case of a "hit-and-run" that went before the courts. But rather than being a motorist, the accused was a cyclist who had knocked down an elderly woman and fled the scene.
Lim Choon Teck, 35, was cycling on a pavement at Ang Mo Kio Avenue 8 at high speed when he collided into Madam Chng Kian, 69, who was walking with her husband to a nearby bus stop.
Though Madam Tan was badly injured, Lim did not stop to tend to her. Instead, without even a word of apology, Tan sped off on his bicycle.
When the case went to court last Monday, there was a twist when Lim was sentenced.
The prosecution had called for Lim to be jailed for two weeks after he pleaded guilty to committing a rash act that endangered the safety of others.
But District Judge Lee-Khoo Poh Choo disagreed with the recommendation and instead sentenced Lim to eight weeks' jail, highlighting that he had acted cowardly and irresponsibly by escaping from the scene.
In a rare move, the prosecution then appealed against the sentence for being "manifestly excessive". The appeal is expected to be heard in the High Court today.
Court papers said that Lim was cycling at an unsafe speed along the pavement at about 7.25pm on May 17.
As he approached a bus stop, he did not notice Madam Chng and her husband as his view was obscured by a signboard.
Lim crashed into Madam Chng, who fell and landed on her outstretched right arm, injuring it badly.
Her husband demanded Lim's particulars and he handed over his identity card. But before the husband could take down his particulars, Lim snatched back his IC and fled.
Madam Chng was taken to Khoo Teck Puat Hospital and found to have suffered a fracture at the joint between her right shoulder and upper arm. There were also possible fractures to her wrist and forearm.
Last Monday, in seeking a two-week jail term, Deputy Public Prosecutor Tan Ee Kuan cited that Lim had breached traffic rules by cycling on the pavement, doing so at an unsafe speed while his view was blocked.
He caused grievous hurt to his victim and did not help her or wait for the ambulance to arrive.
Lim, who did not have a lawyer, did not say anything in mitigation.
Giving her grounds for the harsher sentence, Judge Lee-Khoo said that Lim had callously sped off to avoid the consequences of his rash act.
"It would appear that (Lim) did not extend any apologies or offers of compensation to the victim, thereby reinforcing my belief that he lacked remorse," she said.
"The accused must have seen the victim was on the ground and was in distress and needed help. Nevertheless, he chose to act in a selfish, cowardly and irresponsible manner.
"In my views, this incident is akin to a 'hit-and-run' road traffic accident."
Judge Lee-Khoo also took into consideration that a bicycle, unlike a motor vehicle, has no registration number, making it harder to track down, and that victims injured by a cyclist could not claim compensation as "there is no insurance".
"I felt that the punishment ought to be more severe to deter cyclists from such irresponsible conduct, especially when they had injured innocent rightful users of the pavement," she added.
Madam Chng told Shin Min Daily News yesterday that her arm was in a cast for six weeks and even after it was removed, she still had trouble raising her arm.
Her medical fees were mostly subsidised by the Pioneer Generation Package, but she spent about $500 on medication, she said.
Criminal lawyers contacted by The New Paper said it was rare for the prosecution to appeal for a lower sentence. Appeals by the prosecution would normally be to enhance the sentence, not reduce it.
Mr Luke Lee said he had not come across such a situation in his 26 years of practice. Usually, it is defence lawyers who file appeals for their convicted clients, he said.
Mr Rajan Supramaniam, who has been in practice for 15 years, said the prosecution could have felt that the sentence was disproportionate to the offence committed.
He said the prosecution could have felt it was possible that the sentence would set too high a precedent, but he added that other cases would not necessarily be bound by this.
Lim could have been jailed up to six months or fined up to $2,500, or both.
I felt that the punishment ought to be more severe to deter cyclists from such irresponsible conduct, especially when they had injured innocent rightful users of the pavement.
- District Judge Lee-Khoo Poh Choo