Preventive detention 'excessive' for repeat offender, says judge

A judge declined to send a man the prosecution described as a menace to society to seven years' preventive detention, ruling that four years of jail with compulsory aftercare will reform and deter him.

S. Joseph Doray's past convictions include theft at age 16, housebreaking at 25, and three rape charges as well as drink driving two years later. Although District Judge Low Wee Ping accepted that Joseph, 41, was a "persistent habitual offender", he found preventive detention was "manifestly excessive" after considering all factors, in judgment grounds released yesterday.

In the latest incident, Joseph had pleaded guilty to three charges that comprised driving a stolen lorry without a licence or insurance, and one charge of grievously assaulting a 60-year-old cab driver in 2015.

In January this year, the judge sentenced Joseph to a year's jail for vehicular theft, a month each for two driving offences and three years' jail for causing grievous hurt to the cabby, with the three- and one-year terms to run consecutively.

Judge Low said the "extremely aggravating" facts in the assault of the cabby justified a minimum three-year jail term, given that Joseph had been jailed 12 years and caned 12 times for rape in 2003, and jailed two months in 2014 for criminal intimidation. Joseph had assaulted the cabby with two others.

Assistant Public Prosecutor Koh Huimin argued that Joseph's past and present offences showed he is "a true menace to society and ought to be put out of circulation for a substantial period of time".

Defence lawyer Sadhana Rai countered that concern for his past offences "overstates the nature of the offences, and fails to address whether the circumstances give rise to a situation where reformation is impossible". She said the prison's pre-sentence report showed Joseph can reform if given the tools.

Judge Low agreed his current offences did not show a "pattern of escalation" compared with the past. He held that the prison's pre-sentence report on his risk assessment and his past record did not justify the "severe" seven-year preventive detention and also ruled out the minimum five-year corrective training.

Discounting the preventive detention and corrective training terms as "unduly disproportionate", he said Joseph would benefit from being placed in a "step-down" programme under the mandatory aftercare scheme (MAS) involving some 16 months after he has completed two-thirds of his jail term and earning remission.

"In this court's judgment, a sentence of four years of regular imprisonment with the MAS scheme would achieve the dual aims of specifically deterring and rehabilitating the accused," he said. Both parties are appealing the decision.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 05, 2017, with the headline 'Preventive detention 'excessive' for repeat offender, says judge'. Print Edition | Subscribe