Man gets 14 days short detention order for punching cabby; prosecution appealing

Joachim Gabriel Lai Zhen had admitted to punching Mr Tan Keon Chae, 55 in the face in November last year. -- ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG 
Joachim Gabriel Lai Zhen had admitted to punching Mr Tan Keon Chae, 55 in the face in November last year. -- ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG 

SINGAPORE - An insurance agent was sentenced to a 14-day short detention order (SDO) on Tuesday for punching a taxi driver.

The prosecution, which had asked for a longer five-week jail sentence for Joachim Gabriel Lai Zhen, successfully applied for a stay of the sentence, pending its appeal.

The 23-year-old had admitted to punching Mr Tan Keon Chae, 55 in the face in November last year.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Joshua Lim said Lai had been drinking at Clarke Quay with his friends on the evening of May 18, 2013, and had been intoxicated.

At about 3.30am, Lai took Mr Tan's cab to Chai Chee Drive.

When he arrived, the driver asked Lai for his exact address, but Lai got out of the taxi without paying the fare, which came to slightly over $18.

He ran away from the taxi and across the road. Mr Tan went after him, but the latter did not pay despite "repeated entreaties".

When Mr Tan took hold of Lai's jacket, Lai punched him on the nose and on the back of his head..

Lai was arrested but continued to be belligerent even at Bedok South neighbourhood police centre. He was high on alcohol and was very vulgar, the court heard.

The victim was treated at Changi General Hospital. He did not work for three days.

Mr Lim said on Tuesday that no weight should be put on Lai's compensation of $1,500 and apology letter to the victim as they did not reflect his remorse. This had been District Judge Carrie Chan's idea.

In seeking a jail term of five weeks, Mr Lim said the court has to protect public transport officers who are defenceless and simply want to make a living.

Lai could have been jailed for up to two years and/or fined up to $5,000.