Ex-grassroots leader fined $1,500 and ordered to compensate man he punched in carpark row

British national John Duncan Tasker was fined $1,500 for punching a victim over a parking lot.
British national John Duncan Tasker was fined $1,500 for punching a victim over a parking lot. ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

SINGAPORE - A 48-year-old ex-grassroots leader was on Monday (Nov 9) fined $1,500 for punching a 37-year-old man in an altercation over a carpark space earlier this year.

John Duncan Tasker, who was vice-chairman of the Upper Changi Neighbourhood Committee from 2013 until July this year, was also ordered to pay $1,000 in compensation to the victim.

Tasker, a British national and Singapore permanent resident, pleaded guilty to a charge of voluntarily causing hurt. A count of committing a rash act was taken into consideration.

The court heard that at about 6.10pm on May 30, the victim, Mr Yak Eng Kiat, drove to Carpark C1 at East Coast Park and switched on his hazard lights while waiting for a car to leave a parking lot.

While Mr Yak was waiting, Tasker drove his vehicle against the direction of traffic towards the same lot.

When the car which was parked there left, Tasker parked in the lot.

Mr Yak then wound down his driver's seat window and said: "How could you do this?"

Tasker went up to Mr Yak and a quarrel ensued. The two men exchanged vulgarities.

Tasker then punched Mr Yak on the right side of his face once, before going back to his car.

As Mr Yak got out of his car to take photos of the number plate on Tasker's car, the latter drove towards Mr Yak before leaving the carpark. Mr Yak stepped aside and was not hit.

An eyewitness called the police.

Mr Yak was sent to hospital, where a 2cm cut above his right eyelid was stitched up. He was given six days of medical leave.

In asking for a $1,500 to $2,000 fine, Deputy Public Prosecutor Shen Wanqin said Tasker was the aggressor who went up to the victim, who was seated in his car.

"The punch to the victim's face was wholly disproportionate to the minor incident involving a parking lot space," DPP Shen said.

She also asked that Tasker be ordered to pay Mr Yak $1,000 in compensation for his medical fees, and the cost of repairing his spectacles.

In mitigation, Tasker's lawyer Terence Tan told District Judge Shawn Ho that his client had made plans to take his two children to East Coast Park for dinner.

While walking away from his car after parking, he heard Mr Yak shouting at him.

He went up to the latter, and asked him to calm down. But Mr Yak hurled expletives in the presence of his children instead, Mr Tan said.

The lawyer also told the court that Tasker had offered Mr Yak compensation of $2,500, even before he was charged in court for the offence.

Tasker, who has worked in Singapore for the past 12 years, is currently the chief operating officer of a sportswear retailer and distributor, which he co-founded.

A testimonial from the People's Association's Siglap Constituency Office, which was submitted to the court, stated that Tasker was a grassroots leader since 2011.

He led several neighbourhood events, including organising a Christmas Carol, and also won the HDB Good Neighbour Award for Siglap Division in 2013.

He also helps the police re-home its retired K-9 unit dogs, and sits on the board for a Commonwealth charity.

Tasker graduated from the prestigious Sandhurst Royal Military Academy and was a Captain with the British Army's Royal Military Police. It was previously reported that his 15-year military career included a stint as a personal protection officer for the late Princess Diana.

For voluntarily causing hurt, Tasker could have been jailed for up to two years and fined up to $5,000. The punishment for committing a rash act to endanger the personal safety of others is up to six months' jail and a fine of up to $2,500.