Singapore

CJ highlights anomaly in drink-driving laws

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) is reviewing the penalties under the Road Traffic Act for irresponsible driving, including driving under the influence of alcohol.

Included in the review is Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon's judgment grounds on Wednesday that highlighted an anomaly in how repeat offenders of drinking-related traffic offences are sentenced.

Under current law, a person who has a previous conviction for "being behind the driver's wheel while drunk" may escape jail time with a fine if caught drink driving later.

But if it was the other way around, the law calls for a mandatory jail term. That is also the case if the person is caught a second time for the same offence.

The offence of "being behind the driver's wheel while drunk" under the Act applies to drivers who are found "in charge" of a vehicle but not driving it and being over the legal blood- or breath-alcohol level.

Drink driving applies when the offender is actually driving the vehicle.

CJ Menon held that "the anomaly is likely to have been the result of legislative oversight" and said it is something Parliament may have to fix. He made these comments when he reduced a motorist's one-week jail term to a $5,000 fine on appeal.

Pua Hung Jaan Jeffrey Nguyen, 34, had pled guilty in January to driving while having excessive alcohol in his blood and was sentenced to one week's jail and disqualified from driving for 30 months.

The district judge had taken into consideration that in 2012, he had been convicted for "being in charge of a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol". Pua was fined $1,000 for the 2012 offence.

He appealed to the High Court, and CJ Menon reduced the sentence but did not change the ban's length.

He made clear that while the facts of Pua's case and his culpability did not support a jail term, it must not be construed that a jail term would not be meted out in all similar cases.

courtDrink DrivingMINISTRY OF HOME AFFAIRS (MHA)