Consecutive jail terms should generally be ordered for separate offences: Chief Justice

Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon (above) has ordered two jail terms imposed on a 24-year-old man for unrelated offences to run consecutively.
Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon (above) has ordered two jail terms imposed on a 24-year-old man for unrelated offences to run consecutively.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - An offender who is being sentenced for two unrelated offences committed on separate occasions should generally be given jail terms that run consecutively, Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon said on Thursday (March 8).

If jail terms for separate offences are ordered to run concurrently, this would give rise to a "perverse" situation in which the offender effectively gets a free pass for the second offence.

The Chief Justice said this as he ordered two jail terms imposed on a 24-year-old man for unrelated offences - one for slashing a victim and the other, for beating up another victim - to run consecutively.

He will issue detailed written grounds at a later date.

As a result, Raveen Balakrishnan will now have to serve 4½ years in jail instead of his original sentence of 3½ years.

The prosecution had appealed against Raveen's original sentence, handed down by a district judge who had ordered the jail terms for both offences to run concurrently.

Raveen's sentence also includes nine strokes of the cane but this was not the subject of the prosecution's appeal.

On Oct 9, 2016, Raveen slashed a 20-year-old man with a knife outside the St James Power Station club. The victim suffered an 11cm wound on his right cheek that left him permanently scarred.

Raveen was charged in court two days later and released on bail.

While on bail, on April 22 last year, he led a group of four youths to attack another victim who was from a different group.

On Oct 10 last year, Raveen was sentenced to 3½ years' jail and six strokes of the cane for causing hurt with a dangerous weapon; and two years' jail and three strokes for rioting. Both terms were ordered to run concurrently, making an aggregate of 3½ years' jail.

On Thursday, Deputy Public Prosecutor Sarah Shi argued that both sentences should run consecutively instead.

She argued that when offences arise from unrelated incidents, the starting point ought to be consecutive sentences.

The DPP argued that the district judge failed to appreciate that the two offences were committed on different days against different victims, separated by about six months.

By ordering concurrent sentences, the district judge effectively allowed Raveen to evade punishment for the rioting charge, she noted.

Raveen's lawyer, Mr Tan Chao Yuan, argued that consecutive sentences would lead to a "crushing" sentence against his client.

The Chief Justice said that as a general rule, offenders should be punished separately for each separate offence. However, the court also has to ensure that the total sentence is proportionate to the offender's overall criminality, he said.

He reduced the jail term for the rioting charge from two years to a year - not because the original sentence was wrong, but because this would yield a proportionate total sentence of 4½ years' jail when both terms are ordered to run consecutively.