Vietnamese jailed 10 months for punching compatriot's head with force

Nguyen Trong Phu hurt Phan Duc Thang by punching him once on the head, which then led to his death.
Nguyen Trong Phu hurt Phan Duc Thang by punching him once on the head, which then led to his death.

SINGAPORE - A Vietnamese national who threw a hard punch on an acquaintance's head which led to his death was sentenced to 10 months' jail on Tuesday (Dec 6).

Nguyen Trong Phu, 28, pleaded guilty to hurting cleaner Phan Duc Thang, 32, by punching him once on the head with such force that resulted in him suffering a traumatic subarachnoid haemorrhage.

The injury led to his death on May 21, 2016.

The incident took place at a recycling yard at Marsiling Crescent between 7pm and 8.19pm that day.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Gail Wong told the court that Mr Phan and two others arrived at Nguyen's living quarters at the recycling yard of Metallon Recycling for a drinking and eating session that day.

Nguyen shared the quarters with Mr Nguyen Ngoc Nam, 28. They are not related.

During the session, they consumed almost all of the 36 cans of beer they had bought from a minimart. All but one of them had eight to nine cans of beer each and were tipsy.

Mr Phan scolded Nguyen's roommate for not sending money back to his family in Vietnam. Both men stood up with Nguyen seated in between them.

Mr Phan then threw a small plastic chair with metal legs in the direction of Nguyen's roommate but the chair hit Nguyen on the head instead, causing it to bleed.

Nguyen stood up and questioned Mr Phan for throwing the chair at him, and chided him for scolding his roommate.

Suddenly, Nguyen punched Mr Phan once on the left side of his head. Mr Phan became unconscious and landed with a soft thud on the floor.

Nguyen's roommate rushed out of the container to try and get a taxi while the others carried Mr Phan to the main gate to get help.

A motorist, who was a medic in the army, was in his car when he saw Mr Phan lying on the pavement and stopped to help. His passenger called for an ambulance while the driver performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation on the deceased until paramedics came.

Mr Phan was pronounced dead in hospital at about 9.20pm the same day.

Arguing for at least 12 months' jail to be imposed, DPP Wong said the single most aggravating factory in the present case was that Nguyen caused the death of the deceased.

She said Nguyen had admitted to delivering a punch with force of "seven", and the punch landed on the deceased's head, a vulnerable part of the body.

"This is a case of a needless loss of life arising from alcohol-fuelled violence on Vesak Day," she said.

When the chair accidentally hit Nguyen, he could have chosen to walk away or seek medical attention. Instead, he chose to confront the deceased over this and death resulted, she said.

Nguyen's lawyer Chong Yi Mei (assigned) said Nguyen came to Singapore over a year ago to support his family, including his wife and child. She said Nguyen had acted on impulse and was extremely remorseful. A sentence of six to nine months would be appropriate, she said.

Nguyen, whose sentence was backdated to May 23, could have been jailed for up to two years and/or fined up to $5,000.