Man jailed three years for blinding bus driver

Tan Poh Huat, a coffeeshop owner accused for causing grievous hurt to a bus driver.
Tan Poh Huat, a coffeeshop owner accused for causing grievous hurt to a bus driver. ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

SINGAPORE - A coffee shop owner, angry that a bus almost hit him, went to confront its driver and hit him with a pair of pliers - blinding the man in his left eye.

Tan Poh Huat, who was jailed for almost three years on Wednesday (Sept 21), was repairing the signboard of his coffee shop in Lengkok Bahru on Aug 19, 2014, when Mr Chen Ming's bus almost knocked him down, he claimed.

Mr Chen, now 53, was waiting to take students to a sports event when Tan, 61, knocked on his bus window with the pliers.

He denied driving recklessly but, when Tan knocked on the window again, Mr Chen got out and the pair argued. Tan then hit the bus driver in the eye with the pliers, causing Mr Chen's eye to bleed.

Tan returned to his coffee shop, then drove home. Mr Chen stumbled to the school's general office to seek help. About 2½ hours later, police arrested Tan, who said he assaulted the victim out of anger.

Mr Chen underwent an emergency operation and was warded for 16 days. His left eyeball was ruptured beyond repair.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Dora Tay said: "Apart from the physical pain, suffering and inconvenience experienced by the victim, the incident has also caused the victim and his family to suffer a tremendous impact, financially and emotionally."

Mr Chen lost his job as a bus driver which paid him $4,500 a month. His wife has had to work as a dishwasher to support the family. The father of one also incurred huge medical bills for his hospital stays, surgery and prosthetic left eye. He has depleted almost $40,000 of his savings over the past two years.

DPP Tay argued that there was a need to deter like-minded individuals from taking matters into their own hands and resorting to violence whenever they had a dispute. She added that Tan's retaliatory act over a "trivial reckless driving dispute can never be a justified reason for the corresponding permanent injury that was caused to the victim''.

Tan's lawyer Kertar Singh said his client, who is divorced, is suffering from a heart condition and other medical ailments. He said Tan was mentally affected after his coffee shop caught fire in 2014.

Tan, he added, was not prone to violence and has to deal with the civil proceedings initiated by the victim who is seeking damages of around $780,000.

District Judge Chay Yuen Fatt sentenced Tan to 33 months' jail which was deferred to Oct 24.

Tan could have been jailed for up to 10 years and fined for causing grievous hurt.