Johor court orders release of woman in sensitive case involving deaths of teen cyclists

Ms Sam Ke Ting's car ploughed into a group of teenage cyclists on Feb 18, 2017, killing eight of them. PHOTOS: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

JOHOR BARU (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The Magistrate's Court in Johor Baru has ordered the release of a 24-year-old woman whose car ploughed into a group of teenage cyclists, killing eight of them on Feb 18, 2017.

The case raised racial tensions in Johor as the driver was a young ethnic Chinese woman and the victims were all Malay boys. The group of more than 30 teenagers were out for joy rides in fast, modified bicycles on a dark road at around 3am.

Magistrate Siti Hajar Ali ruled that the prosecution had failed to prove a prima facie against the accused, Ms Sam Ke Ting, who is now 24.

The magistrate ordered that the salesgirl's driving license that was suspended since she was charged along with a RM10,000 (S$3,260) bail to be returned immediately.

In the incident in February 2017, eight teen cyclists were killed when a car driven by Ms Sam plowed into a group of them, who were mostly riding modified bicycles known as 'basikal lajak'.

The incident occurred at around 3.30am along Jalan Lingkaran Dalam in Johor Baru.

Eight other cyclists were injured and were hospitalised.

Police have since cracked down on these modified bicycles.

A basikal lajak is one whose handlebars were lowered to the same level as the seat.

This would allow the rider to lie down flat on the seat with his arms outstretched in front when the machine was moving fast, in what is called a "superman" move.

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There have been several deadly accidents involving these bicycles in Johor.

In the Johor Baru case, Ms Sam on March 28 2017 claimed trial to a charge of ramming into the group.

If found guilty under the charge, she could be jailed for a maximum of 10 years and fined not more than RM20,000.

In her judgment, Magistrate Siti Hajar said the prosecution failed to prove a case, as the investigation was incomplete and not comprehensive after reviewing statements from 46 witness.

"The accused could not be prosecuted based on the failure of the investigation officer to investigate the case properly.

"The accused had the right to drive her car and had driven her vehicle within the speed limit, was not driving while using her phone, was not drunk and was using a car seat belt," she said.

The magistrate added that the victims, however, had created an unsafe condition for other road users by being at the location, on the left lane of the road.

"It is impossible for the accused to have predicted the whereabouts of the group of teenagers behind the road hill at 3am in the morning.

"The hilly road conditions had limit the line of sight of the road user," she said, adding that the group had gathered behind the hill to race on the road that had dim lighting.

She added that the victims had also made dangerous modifications on their bicycles by removing the brakes and lowering the seat at the same level as the handlebars.

"The victim had also failed to equip themselves with proper safety equipment such as a light reflection jacket and a bicycle helmet.

"The court also would like to take this opportunity to remind parents out there that they too could be charged under Section 53 of the Child's Act 2001 for neglecting their child," she said.

She added that the police could also take more stern action to eradicate these social issues by issuing summons to the perpetrator under Rule 42, traffic rule 166/59 of the Road Traffic Rules 1959.

"The police could also seize these bicycles under Section 112 of the Road and Transport Act 1987," she added.

The case was prosecuted by deputy public prosecutor Muhammad Syafiq Muhammad Ghazali, and the accused was represented by her lawyer, Muhammad Faizal Mokhtar.

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