5 weeks' jail for recalcitrant offender who refused to pay taxi fares, attacked drivers

SINGAPORE - A recalcitrant offender with a history of attacking taxi drivers did it again shortly after he was released from jail.

He attacked three taxi drivers in separate incidents, each time after refusing to pay for the ride.

Tan Wee Ming, 33, pleaded guilty to three charges that include the use of criminal force, and was sentenced to jail for five weeks.

Another two charges for refusing to pay taxi fares were taken into consideration during his sentencing.

His occupation and other details were not given in court documents.

The court heard that the three incidents occurred between 2018 and 2020.

In August 2018, Tan approached a 63-year-old taxi driver at Sultan Plaza around 7am with a woman and asked for a ride to Bukit Timah to drop off his friend, and then to Ang Mo Kio.

The driver, who was there to pick up his wife from work, obliged but told Tan that his wife would take the front seat. Tan agreed as he knew it would be tough to find another taxi at that point.

When the ride was over, the driver asked Tan to pay $42, based on the taxi meter, said Deputy Public Prosecutor Benedict Teong.

The DPP said: "The accused refused to make payment for the taxi fare as he felt it was too expensive to be correct and he alighted."

The driver confronted Tan, who shoved his shoulder, and the cabby almost fell.

Tan left after the man's wife tried to stop the dispute and the police were called.

The driver felt pain in his shoulder and received three days of medical leave.

Tan was located at a nearby coffee shop by the police on the same day and placed under investigation.

When the police tried to facilitate restitution, the driver refused Tan's offer of $62, arguing that he should be covered for the earnings lost during his leave.

In January 2020, another taxi driver, 58, picked Tan up from Geylang Road.

Tan similarly ignored the driver after he was told to pay $14.80 for the ride to Ang Mo Kio.

The driver took out his phone to snap a picture of Tan, who moved towards him to snatch his phone. The driver stepped back and fell, injuring his knee.

The DPP mentioned one more incident in March 2019 when Tan, who, according to the driver, reeked of alcohol, refused to pay a $14 fare after a ride from Geylang to Ang Mo Kio.

He shoved the driver when he was asked to pay.

Seeking five weeks' jail for Tan, DPP Teong noted that the offence from 2018 occurred months after he was released from jail for a similar offence.

He said: "The offence occurred under similar circumstances, to a similar class of victim.

"(Tan) is a recalcitrant offender who is unrehabilitated and undeterred."

Defence lawyer Chua Hock Lu, who asked for up to 15 days' jail for Tan, said he had shown restraint as his current offences were less severe than his previous case.

District Judge Wong Li Tein said that there were no mitigating factors in Tan's case and that there was a need to deter such offences.

She added: "If there was restraint I do not see it... He must take full responsibility for the harm caused to the victims."

Those who use criminal force on others can be jailed for up to three months and fined up to $1,500.

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