Odd-job worker who stabbed stranger gets shorter jail term after brain haemorrhage

SINGAPORE - Three days before he was to receive punishment for stabbing a stranger in a coffeeshop, an odd-job worker suffered a brain haemorrhage that needed surgery and left him confined to a wheelchair.

Goh Kheng Seng, who turns 67 on Friday, was meant to be sentenced on Jan 8 this year but his condition meant the date had to be postponed.

He was sentenced to jail of 15 weeks, or about three months, on Thursday for stabbing Mr See Chong Yin, 68, with a pair of scissors on Oct 14 last year. He is expected to be released immediately, after the court also ordered that the term be backdated to Oct 21, when he was first remanded over the incident.

The prosecution had earlier sought more than four months' jail for Goh in view of an earlier offence in June 2003, when he was jailed four months for possessing an offensive instrument.

But Community Court Judge Mathew Joseph took Goh's advanced age and frail state into account before passing sentence. The judge added that it was not in the interests of justice to further incarcerate Goh, as this might pose a danger to the man's health.

Just before attacking his victim at the coffee shop in Block 74, Lorong 4 Toa Payoh on Oct 14, Goh had been taunting passers-by, swearing at them in Hokkien and challenging them to fights.

Around 2.30pm, he suddenly swore at Mr See, who had just bought a cup of coffee and was looking for a seat. Goh threw punches at the victim and pushed him to the ground, all the while stabbing him repeatedly with the scissors.

Mr See suffered three superficial cuts in his neck and was admitted in hospital until Oct 16.

Further investigations revealed that Goh was a regular patron of the coffee shop and would often scold people at random for no apparent reason. A report from the Institute of Mental Health diagnosed him as suffering from schizophrenia, but stated he was of sound mind when stabbing Mr See.

Goh had one charge of mischief, for setting fire to a rubber tubing on Oct 18, taken into consideration. He could have been jailed for up to two years and fined up to $5,000 for voluntarily causing hurt.

pohian@sph.com.sg