Rash cyclist: DPP to ask for shorter jail term

ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

Prosecution arguing 8-week sentence 'excessive' in what may be benchmark case

It is a rare move for the prosecution to appeal for a criminal's sentence to be reduced.

But that is what the deputy public prosecutor will do in the High Court today after a cyclist who rode into and injured an elderly pedestrian was jailed for eight weeks.

The prosecution had originally called for 35-year-old Lim Choon Teck to be imprisoned for at least two weeks for the rash act, which knocked over Madam Chng Kian and left her with a fractured elbow and wrist injury.

Madam Chng, 69, and her husband Ng Seok Choon, 74, were walking towards a bus stop in Ang Mo Kio Avenue 8, on the evening of May 17, when Lim rode on the pavement at an unsafe speed and collided into her.

Lim at first gave Mr Ng his identity card, but then snatched it away and fled before his details could be recorded.

Last week, Lim pleaded guilty to the rash-act charge and Deputy Public Prosecutor Tan Ee Kuan highlighted aggravating factors such as Lim cycling on the pavement, causing grievous hurt, and bolting off instead of waiting for the ambulance.

But District Judge Lee-Khoo Poh Choo meted out a jail term four times as long as the DPP's minimum demand, making clear that there is a need for deterrence and comparing the sentence to norms for "killer litter" cases which also involved rash acts.

In judgment grounds released yesterday, she said Lim lacked remorse in not remaining with the elderly couple, adding that he acted "in a selfish, cowardly and irresponsible manner".

"I would have viewed it differently if the accused had remained with the victim and Ng until the police or the ambulance arrived."

Pointing out that the incident occurred at night, and involved a vulnerable and elderly couple, she added it would have afforded them some measure of comfort and security if Lim had remained with them instead of "callously" speeding off.

The district judge likened the case to a hit-and-run road traffic accident, pointing out that precedent cases had jail terms ranging from two weeks to three months.

She noted that a bicycle, unlike a car, did not have a registration number to trace the rider and there is no insurance under which the injured victim could recover damages. She added: "Cyclists know the risks against them are very low. It can be said that, generally, they suffer no consequences when they cycle on pavements in an unsafe manner.

"Hence I felt that the punishment ought to be more severe to deter cyclists from such irresponsible conduct, especially when they had injured innocent, rightful users of the pavement or pathway."

The prosecution is arguing that the eight-week sentence is "manifestly excessive" in what may well turn into a benchmark case on how errant cyclists who ride on pavements are dealt with.

Lim, who said nothing in mitigation, has been remanded in custody since he was charged on Sept 1.

In 2012, he was jailed for a year and given six strokes of the cane under the Moneylenders Act for harassing alleged debtors and occupants at their homes.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 18, 2015, with the headline 'Rash cyclist: DPP to ask for shorter jail term'. Print Edition | Subscribe