Man who attacked cabby jailed over 'deplorable' conduct

People in a taxi queue at Marina Bay Financial Centre.
People in a taxi queue at Marina Bay Financial Centre.PHOTO: ST FILE

A German national who tried to cut a taxi queue by claiming he should get priority for paying $40,000 in taxes to Singapore, and then punched the cabby, was yesterday jailed for 10 days.

District Judge Lim Tse Haw repeatedly called Michael Fritsch's conduct during the incident on May 17 last year "deplorable" from start to finish, adding that a four-week sentence was the minimum.

But given the guilty plea and remorse shown by the 38-year- old, who is head of business operations for the Asia-Pacific at T-Systems, the judge brought the sentence down, but not without delivering a warning.

"I hope you have learnt your lesson in this incident and never ever resort to violence against anyone, let alone public transport workers,'' he said.

After drinking at the nightclub Zouk, Fritsch and a friend left at 4am to get a taxi. But there was already a queue for taxis along the nearby Kim Seng Road. Mr Low Chong Peng's cab was next in line.

A couple approached Mr Low's cab, but before they could board, Fritsch got in and sat in the middle. He offered Mr Low, 52, double a cabby's $2,000 to $3,000 monthly earnings. Mr Low declined, stating it was a matter of principle.

Fritsch then argued he should get priority for paying high taxes to Singapore every year. He said he would call the Land Transport Authority.

Mr Low asked him to get out of the taxi before making the call. Fritsch refused, and kept typing on his mobile phone. Taxi drivers behind started to honk.

After 15 minutes, Mr Low relented and asked where Fritsch wanted to go. But Fritsch said he would wait for everyone outside to go away so that Mr Low would not be able to take any passengers.

Mr Low then told Fritsch he would take a photo of him and report him to the police. He took a few shots of Fritsch and dialled 999. When he turned around, Fritsch punched him on the forehead.

Fritsch, who had left by the time police arrived, was arrested five days later.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Teo Lu Jia sought a one- to two-week jail term to protect public transport workers who should not be subject to such violent behaviour. The court, she said, must send a strong message that Fritsch's actions could not be tolerated.

Fritsch's lawyer Adam Maniam said his client was deeply remorseful. He said Fritsch wanted to donate $1,000 to the National Taxi Association but the money went to the National Crime Prevention Council instead as the taxi association was unable to accept the donation.

Fritsch had also given a letter of apology to Mr Low, plus $1,675 in compensation. He could have been jailed for up to two years and/or fined up to $5,000.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 16, 2016, with the headline 'Man who attacked cabby jailed over 'deplorable' conduct'. Print Edition | Subscribe