New sentencing guidelines for drink-driving cases involving injury or property damage
Chief Justice sets new sentencing guidelines for drink-driving cases involving injury or property damage
Drink drivers who cause injury and property damage will be punished under new sentencing guidelines set by the High Court yesterday.
As a starting point, a drink driver who causes injury and/or property damage will be jailed unless it is an "exceptional category of cases", said Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon.
This exception occurs when a drink driver causes slight physical injury or slight to moderate property damage and has low culpability, such as low blood alcohol level and no evidence of dangerous driving.
He may then escape jail with a fine and driving ban.
CJ Menon also spelt out the different degrees of injury, property damage and culpability in setting four bands of penalties for first offenders.
For instance, very serious harm refers to loss of limb, sight, hearing or life or paralysis. Coupled with high culpability, this will incur jail time of four to six months. (See table below.)
Moderate harm refers to serious property damage, and/or personal injury with hospitalisation or medical leave but no fractures or permanent injuries.
A driver with high alcohol level and dangerous driving behaviour would be considered highly culpable.
Medium culpability means moderate to high alcohol level or dangerous driving behaviour.
The new benchmarks came in the appeal of Singapore Armed Forces major Stansilas Fabian Kester, 35, who beat a red light at the junction of South Bridge Road and Upper Pickering Street in January last year, resulting in an accident that injured two.
He had a breath alcohol level of 43 microgrammes in 100 millilitres of breath, which exceeded the prescribed limit of 35 microgrammes.
His case, classified as moderate harm and medium culpability, had an initial sentence of two weeks' jail, which CJ Menon reduced to one week.
A three-year disqualification from driving remained.
This is not the first time CJ Menon has clarified sentencing guidelines on drink driving.
Sentences for drink-driving cases where no harm is caused will still be based on a framework he set in 2013 focusing on the offender's level of alcohol.
Lawyers and road safety experts said the new guidelines will offer further clarity and be a stronger deterrent against drink driving.
Mr Foo Cheow Ming of Templars Law said: "Previously, there has not been a single judgment that spells out the different scenarios. This is a comprehensive and compendious summary of all the case laws."
Mr Rajan Supramaniam of Hilborne Law thinks the sentencing framework will make the public aware of the consequences of drink driving.
"There will be no more impression that drunk drivers will get off lightly," he said.
Road Safety Council chairman Bernard Tay said: "It should be clear in everybody's minds that you shouldn't be driving if you drink, or you will be punished accordingly."
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