Briton's jail term doubled for assault in MRT station

Benjamin Holman, 34, had assaulted another commuter during a fist fight at Raffles Place MRT station on Feb 3 last year.
Benjamin Holman, 34, had assaulted another commuter during a fist fight at Raffles Place MRT station on Feb 3 last year. PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

The High Court has doubled the sentence imposed on a Briton for breaking a man's nose during an altercation in an MRT station, a ruling underscoring the seriousness of public order offences in crowded places.

Benjamin Holman, 34, was jailed for one month after he pleaded guilty on March 18 to one count of assault committed at Raffles Place MRT station during the evening rush hour on Feb 3 last year. The prosecution had appealed against the sentence imposed in the State Courts.

"Public spaces in an urban environment are often frantic and congested," wrote Justice Aedit Abdullah in judgment grounds last week.

"It is in these situations that there is a greater need to protect public order so as to ensure that society can go about its affairs with as little disruption as possible; a concern that is ever more acute in a city of several million people," he added.

The victim, Mr Jason Ow, 30, was walking along the train platform when he accidentally knocked into Holman, who had consumed alcohol a few hours before the incident.

He turned around and looked at Holman before walking away, but the Briton yelled at him and an argument ensued. Mr Ow tried to walk away again later, but Holman followed him and pushed the younger man's chest.

When Mr Ow pushed Holman away and told him to back off, the Briton responded by approaching the victim with his fists raised.

A fist fight then followed during which, at one point, Mr Ow was almost kneeling on the ground with Holman continuing to punch him several times on the face.

Both men were eventually separated by other commuters on the platform.

Mr Ow was later treated at the Singapore General Hospital for bruises and a fractured nose bone.

In seeking a heavy deterrent sentence in the High Court appeal, Deputy Public Prosecutors Han Ming Kuang and Li Yihong argued that the district judge had failed to give due weight to strong public policy considerations in the case that would have justified a heavier deterrent, among other things.

Holman's lawyer, Mr Vinit Chhabra, countered that the district judge had correctly assessed the aggravating and mitigating factors in the case and urged the High Court not to impose a long jail term which would jeopardise his client's prospects for a job awaiting him abroad.

Justice Aedit ruled there was a specific need to preserve public order in public transport areas and even though the incident spanned a short period of time and others present quelled the scuffle, "this would not eclipse the breach of public order, which thus merited a stern response". In raising the jail term to two months, the judge took into account Holman's intoxicated state at the time of the incident.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 08, 2018, with the headline Briton's jail term doubled for assault in MRT station. Subscribe