Ex-university student gets short detention order for punching taxi driver over cab fare

SINGAPORE - A drunk university student who punched a taxi driver in the head several times over a $16.97 fare, leaving him bloodied from a deep cut on his forehead, was sentenced to a short detention order of two weeks on Monday.

In April last year, Zeng Zhuangyong, 25, had alighted from cabby Poon Cher Ming's vehicle after vomiting in it but tried to leave without paying. After the short struggle that followed, Zeng straddled the 54-year-old as he lay on the ground and punched him repeatedly while swearing at him.

The short detention order is one of the community sentencing options under the Criminal Procedure Code, aimed at giving more flexibility to the courts. It is less disruptive and stigmatising than jail.

Zeng, then a student at Singapore Management University, pleaded guilty to hurting Mr Poon along Lorong 4 Toa Payoh on April 28 last year.

The court heard that around 3am that day, the cabby twice grabbed hold of Zeng to stop him from leaving. Zeng responded with a punch both times, in the second instance after promising he would pay, and tried to run off. Mr Poon then grabbed Zeng a third time, and both men fell to the ground in the struggle that resulted.

Zeng, who was 23 at the time and has since graduated from SMU, later paid Mr Poon $5,000 in compensation.

He could have been jailed for up to two years and and fined up to $5,000 for voluntarily hurting the cabby.