Stuntman's death

Attacker's sentence reduced on appeal

Mr John Denly Nelson fell and hit his head on the kerb after he was punched in the face by Muhammad Khalis Ramlee.
Mr John Denly Nelson fell and hit his head on the kerb after he was punched in the face by Muhammad Khalis Ramlee.

A man who punched a Universal Studios stuntman, causing injuries that killed him, had his jail and caning sentence reduced yesterday.

Waiter Muhammad Khalis Ramlee, 25, was part of a group who went on the rampage in Boat Quay on Christmas Eve, 2015, when he hit Mr John Denly Nelson in the face, causing him to fall and hit his head on the kerb. The 30-year-old American suffered head injuries that proved fatal a week later.

Last November, a district judge sentenced Khalis to 10 years' jail and 24 strokes of the cane on four charges - a count of causing grievous hurt charge, two of rioting for two other fights that night, and one of drug consumption. Khalis appealed to the High Court, claiming the punishment was too harsh.

Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon cut the grievous hurt sentence from seven years and 12 strokes to 4½ years and eight strokes. It brought his overall sentence down to 7½ years in jail and 20 strokes.

In his judgment, CJ Menon said the district judge placed too much weight on the fact that Khalis was involved in other violent acts that night. He noted that Khalis was punished for his role in two riots that were "sufficiently distinct".

The Chief Justice also noted that Khalis delivered a single punch. "Although the blow was forceful, it was not part of a continuous or repeated attack; nor was it delivered as part of a group attack," he said.

Khalis and a group of friends had gone on a violent spree from 2am to 3am that day. A confrontation with a stranger outside a bar in Circular Road escalated into a brawl which was broken up by bar staff, but a second soon erupted.

As those fights calmed, a dispute took place between a friend of Khalis and friend of Mr Nelson near a taxi stand. Mr Nelson tried to intervene and was set upon by Khalis, who delivered a "lunging punch" from behind.

Although Khalis did not appeal against his conviction, he argued he had not intended for Mr Nelson to lose consciousness, or to fall and fracture his skull.

CJ Menon said Khalis' argument made him consider if he had been correctly convicted of causing grievous hurt, as it challenged whether the mental element of the offence had been made out.

From the evidence, he concluded that Khalis did know at the time of delivering such a forceful punch that some sort of grievous hurt was likely to result. It was immaterial that Khalis may not have intended for the victim to die.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 12, 2018, with the headline 'Attacker's sentence reduced on appeal'. Print Edition | Subscribe