Court lays out guidelines for dangerous driving cases

Extent of harm caused, offender's culpability among factors considered before sentencing

The court has broadly identified the different degrees of harm to be considered when imposing jail terms for motorists found guilty of dangerous driving.

Those who cause serious injury, which usually involves fractures, or permanent injuries may be hit with sentences in the higher range.

Judge of Appeal Steven Chong, in a written judgment issued last Friday, said the sentencing guidelines set out by Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon in July for drink-driving offences are "useful" and "equally relevant" for dangerous driving. Besides the different degrees of harm, the guidelines also look at the offender's culpability, including the manner and circumstances of driving.

Judge of Appeal Chong raised these points in his judgment in the appeal of 56-year-old cabby Aw Tai Hock, who had been sentenced to three months' jail in March.

On Aug 23, the prosecution appealed for his sentence to be upped to five months, calling it "one of the worst cases of dangerous driving ever seen".

On June 8 last year, Aw had started a high-speed car chase, racing across 11 speed bumps, and at one time, he drove against the flow of traffic in pursuit of Mohd Andy Abdullah, who had damaged his taxi with weapons.

Aw nearly collided several times with several pedestrians and other vehicles during the chase, which lasted about five minutes. It came to an end only after Andy's car crashed into a stationary car.

Judge of Appeal Chong granted the prosecution's appeal, after finding Aw's actions to be of moderate harm and high culpability.

A moderate degree of harm involves serious property damage and/or personal injury, but no fractures or permanent injuries.

With the maximum jail term for drink driving at 12 months, Judge of Appeal Chong said that a sentence in the midpoint region would be appropriate for Aw.

Andy was fined $2,000 and disqualified from driving for four months for dangerous driving. He was also convicted of multiple drug offences, resulting in a total sentence of 10 years and six months' jail and 16 strokes of the cane.

Both Andy and the driver in the stationary car that was hit sustained injuries ranging from bruises to sprains. Both cars were also significantly damaged.

"The entire episode placed many road users and pedestrians at great harm and risk," wrote the judge, noting that Aw had used his taxi as a weapon to cause damage.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 10, 2017, with the headline 'Court lays out guidelines for dangerous driving cases'. Print Edition | Subscribe