CJ rejects argument of retired SAF regular who appealed against jail for drink driving

Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon said downstream consequences that could befall an offender cannot be taken into account in sentencing. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - A retired Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) warrant officer who was given a week's jail for drink driving appealed for a fine, arguing that he risked losing a payout of more than $273,000 he was entitled to get upon retirement if a custodial sentence was imposed.

This argument was rejected by Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, who said downstream consequences that could befall an offender cannot be taken into account in sentencing.

"Taking account of extrinsic factors could result in a fundamental assault on the criminal justice system," he said in written grounds issued on Thursday (Nov 11).

"If the court were to place weight on factors such as the financial consequences of a particular sentence, and reduce an offender's sentence on that basis, it would result in the more favourable treatment of certain individuals."

However, the Chief Justice partly allowed the appeal by 55-year-old M. Raveendran and cut his jail term to five days after comparing the facts of the case with those of past similar cases.

Raveendran was driving home after midnight on Sept 9, 2018, after having beer with friends at Newton Food Centre, when he lost control of his car along Thomson Road towards Upper Thomson Road.

His car mounted the centre divider and hit the guard railings.

A police officer came across the accident while on patrol. He conducted a preliminary breath test, which Raveendran failed.

A further test at the police station showed that he had 91 mcg of alcohol per 100ml of breath, which exceeded the prescribed limit of 35mcg.

Raveendran later footed the bill of $1,438.50 for repairs to the railings.

Last year, he pleaded guilty to a charge of drink driving. A second charge of driving without due care and attention was taken into consideration.

He had sought a $4,000 fine before the district court, arguing that he risked losing bonus and gratuity payments if he were to be jailed.

The district judge said this did not justify a reduction in his sentence. The judge imposed a week's jail and a two-year driving ban, taking into account the damage caused, level of alcohol and the loss of control.

In his appeal to the High Court this year, Raveendran said he retired in November last year and was entitled to emoluments amounting to $273,694.02.

He said the payout might be forfeited if he were to be jailed.

However, he was unable to provide any confirmation from the Defence Ministry.

In August, CJ Menon disregarded this argument but partly allowed the appeal.

In written grounds on Thursday to explain his reasons, he said: "If the courts were to take such consequences into account, there would be no logical limits as to when or how these consequences should be factored into sentencing."

He said it was impossible for the court to place a value on such consequences and translate potential financial losses into an appropriate reduction in sentence.

He added that the different potential financial losses that could be faced by offenders cannot meaningfully be compared, given the varied consequences that one could suffer as a result of being sentenced.

CJ Menon noted that under the Singapore Armed Forces Act, any military punishment may be taken into consideration as a mitigating circumstance. However, in this case, no military punishment has as yet been imposed on Raveendran.

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