Man who swopped seats at roadblock while banned from driving, disqualified for 12 years

SINGAPORE - A man who was at the wheel of a Mercedes E230 while under a driving ban stopped the car as it approached a police roadblock. Hirwandy Taha then swapped seats with his wife in the passenger seat, and she drove the car to the roadblock point.

However, two police officers observed the switch.

On Friday, more than a decade after the August 2003 incident, Hirwandy, now 38, was jailed 15 weeks. He was also banned from driving for 12 years. The High Court dismissed his appeal against conviction and sentence for driving while under disqualification and driving without third-party insurance coverage.

The case took more than 10 years to be tried because the couple left Singapore for Britain in September 2003 after he was charged in court. They returned here only in May 2012.

Hirwandy had fought the charges, maintaining that his wife was the driver at the time.

He did not deny alighting from the driver's seat but contended that it was the result of a series of manoeuvres inside the car.

He claimed that he had moved from the front passenger seat to the rear seat to attend to one of his twin daughters while his wife was driving. He claimed that when the car stopped, his wife moved to the passenger seat while he had no choice but to alight from the driver's seat as the rear doors were child-locked.

But the Traffic Court convicted Hirwandy in December last year, finding that the alleged series of manoeuvres was "unreasonable" and "strange".

On Friday, he appealed but the High Court saw no reason to disagree with the trial judge.

Hirwandy was first fined $2,000 and banned from driving for 30 months in 2001 for driving without a valid licence, driving without insurance and making an illegal U-turn.

He flouted the driving ban and in July 2003, was jailed eight weeks and banned from driving for eight years. But within a week of his release from prison, Hirwandy committed the current set of driving offences.

selinal@sph.com.sg