NUS assistant law professor convicted for assaulting cabby

SINGAPORE - An assistant law professor from the National University of Singapore (NUS) was convicted on Friday for assaulting a cabby while drunk, leaving his victim bloodied and needing multiple stitches.

Sundram Peter Soosay, 43, had boarded Mr Sun Chun Hua's taxi in the wee hours on Christmas Day. Intoxicated with alcohol after a Christmas Eve gathering, he later vomited in the cab.

He then alighted near King Albert Park along Clementi Road and walked away without paying his taxi fare. He handed a $50 note over after the 70-year-old cabby chased him and threatened to call the police. Mr Sun returned to his cab to get change.

Soosay then allegedly struck Mr Sun from behind, straddled him and punched him on his face repeatedly.

An eye-witness saw a scuffle break out between the two. While uncertain of who started it, the witness saw Soosay kneeling down and striking Mr Sun on the head several times with his fist.

The court heard that he then ran towards them and shouted at them to stop the fight, as Mr Sun "did not look like he was capable of defending himself".

Soosay's lawyer said his client had walked away after the scuffle and did not attack the cabby.

District Judge Victor Yeo, in finding Soosay guilty, said that his testimony was "riddled with hindsight reasoning, convenient conjecture and hypothesis".

Tearing down his defence, District Judge Victor Yeo said Soosay's testimony was inconsistent with his first statement to the police.

"Despite the accused's intoxicated state, he seemed able to recall with great clarity how Mr Sun had behaved aggressively towards him," he said.

He added that Soosay had made no mention of these details in his first statement to the police, but had instead said he was so drunk that he could not remember what actually happened.

He also noted that Mr Sun was of a fairly advanced age, and it would have been foolish for him to start a fight with his passenger - who was larger in stature - after he had received money for the taxi fare.

Soosay will be sentenced on June 26. He faces up to two years in jail, a fine of up to $5000, or both.

In a statement on Friday, an NUS spokesman said Soosay has been suspended without pay, and the university "will now determine what further disciplinary action should be taken".

miranday@sph.com.sg