SINGAPORE - Jeron Liew Wei Jie was just 18 when he brutally assaulted another youth who lay unconscious on the ground, after the latter had declined to take up a challenge to fight.
The victim, Kelvin Gan Teck Xiang, who was also 18, had a broken skull and bleeding in his brain. He died in hospital five days later.
On Thursday (Aug 11), Liew, now 19, was jailed for 8½ years with 24 strokes of the cane for the vicious assault and two other crimes - robbery with hurt and drug use.
Liew's unprovoked attack on Kelvin was not only among the most serious cases involving youth offenders in recent years, it was also among the worst assaults involving grievous hurt, noted District Judge Lim Keng Yeow.
And his criminal record also showed a "worrying level of recalcitrance and propensity for reoffending".
Liew had been put on probation for unlawful assembly in early 2011, sent to a juvenile home for housebreaking and theft in late 2011, jailed six weeks for causing hurt in 2013, and jailed for a week for affray in 2014.
He had pleaded guilty to his latest crimes in April. Two counts of having a knife in public and two charges of having cigarettes as a minor were taken into account.
In his sentencing remarks, Judge Lim said: "A family came to lose a son irretrievably and under the most senseless of circumstances. The court is acutely aware that no words will be sufficient to describe the grief and pain that the victim's family has borne for more than a year (and) as a result, grief and pain may continue for some time, in spite of today's outcome.
"These considerations bear down gravely on this case. The sentence simply has to reflect out society's utter abhorrence of the offender's actions."
Handcuffed, shackled and wearing prison attire - a white T-shirt and brown trousers - Liew stood in the dock with his head bowed as Judge Lim spoke. He was allowed to speak with his mother before being brought back to jail, where he has been remanded since May last year.
On May 23 last year, Kelvin, a Malaysian, checked into a hotel for a friend's 18th birthday the next day, the court heard. Just after midnight, he went with friends to Club Casanovi at Parklane Mall in Selegie Road.
At about 2am, the group bumped into Liew, who was on his way to get supper opposite the mall. Liew went up to the group as he knew one of Kelvin's friends.
But Liew found Kelvin to be "acting proud and showing a bad attitude", Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Sarah Shi said. He also thought Kelvin was boasting about belonging to a gang, and challenged him to a fight, but the victim declined to do so.
Kelvin made a phone call as he crossed the road. Suspecting him to be calling for "backup", Liew pulled him by his collar into an alley. Liew raised his fists and again challenged him to a fight, to no avail.
At about 2.45am, Liew punched Kelvin's face twice and he fell backwards, hitting his head on the ground. Liew yanked his collar and called out to him, but he was unconscious.
Liew again challenged Kelvin to hit him and slapped his face twice. Liew then forcefully hurled Kelvin's head down to hit the kerb and kicked his face twice, before Kelvin's friends pulled Liew away.
Kelvin was carried into a taxi and back to the hotel by his friends. At some point, he regained consciousness and said he was in pain, but lapsed back into what his friends thought was sleep. They called for an ambulance at about 9am, when they realised he was unresponsive.
Separately on Jan 16 last year, Liew, along with two friends, robbed lorry driver Balasubramaniam Sureshkumar, 29, of two cellphones worth $370 in total.The next month, Liew was caught for drug use. He admitted to taking methamphetamine since late 2013.