Cabby acquitted of acting rashly and endangering policeman

Wong Sin Peng leaving the State Courts after he was acquitted.
Wong Sin Peng leaving the State Courts after he was acquitted.ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

SINGAPORE - A taxi driver who was tried for acting rashly to endanger the personal safety of a policeman was acquitted on Thursday (March 17).

Mr Wong Sin Peng, 63, had denied driving off his taxi while Sergeant Muhammad Fais Abdul Wahab was holding onto the cab door handle along Lorong 32 Geylang, causing him to suffer a contusion on his left hand, on March 8 last year.

The prosecution called a doctor and two policemen to the witness stand on Wednesday afternoon.

Sgt Fais's evidence was that he was with two colleagues from the StreetwalkerTaskforce, Specialised Crime Branch, in Geylang that evening when they saw a taxi near the junction of Lorong 22.

After it turned into Lorong 22 and stopped, the plainclothes officers moved in to check on three transvestites sitting at the back of the taxi. The three were suspected of vice activities.

Sgt Fais testified that he had knocked on the window on the driver's side and showed Mr Wong his police pass. He said Mr Wong did not react and kept looking forward.

The court heard that a lookout on a motorised bicycle rode towards the cabby's side and hand signalled the passengers to leave, but was told to leave by the policemen .

Sgt Fais said he managed to open the driver's door, and the driver drove off while his left hand was still on the door handle. He jogged alongside the taxi for a short distance before he released the handle.

Defence counsel Gino Hardial Singh put to Sgt Fais that he did not show his police pass to the driver. Sgt Fais said he did.

Counsel suggested that the witness and his colleagues were "rash and reckless'' in trying to detain the passengers despite having no reasonable grounds to do so in the middle of the road, putting himself, the cabby and other users at risk. Sgt Fais disagreed.

Mr Singh said his client had driven off because he believed that Sgt Fais and his colleagues were "hoodlums'' and feared for his own safety and that of his passengers.

When the case resumed on Thursday, Deputy Public Prosecutor Kenny Yang said when the trial proceeded on the rash act charge, there was evidence of the policeman placing his pass on the taxi driver's window.

There was also evidence that the driver had driven off while the doors were open, and in the course of doing so, hurt was caused.

But during trial, evidence emerged that the driver did not see the officer's pass.

Having considered the facts and reviewed the matter, DPP Yang said the prosecution was offering no further evidence. He applied for a discharge amounting to an acquittal.

In acquitting Mr Wong, District Judge John Ng said he considered that the two policemen who testified were "fairly fair'' in the way they gave their evidence.

He said he was glad that the prosecution had reviewed the matter and decided to withdraw the charge.

A relieved Mr Wong thanked the judge after his acquittal.

The maximum penalty for the offence is one year's jail and a $5,000 fine.