Court overturns probation for driver who hit cyclist, imposes 2-week detention and driving ban

Chew Jia Ying leaves the State courts on Feb 22, 2021. She has been banned from driving for three years.
Chew Jia Ying leaves the State courts on Feb 22, 2021. She has been banned from driving for three years.ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

SINGAPORE - A young driver who was given probation in February for hitting a cyclist while she was speeding will now have to serve a short detention order of two weeks, after prosecutors argued that her original sentence was "unjust".

In allowing the prosecution's appeal to overturn the probation order on Thursday (Aug 19), the High Court also banned Chew Jia Ying, 20, from driving for three years.

Justice Vincent Hoong said probation was manifestly inadequate for Chew, who was a 19-year-old polytechnic student on July 24, 2019, when she swerved to avoid a vehicle and hit Mr Wong Wu Pao's bicycle.

The judge noted that this was not a case in which the rehabilitation of a young offender should "completely eclipse" other sentencing considerations.

Justice Hoong noted that Chew had a propensity for flouting traffic rules.

"I agree with the prosecution's argument that there is a need for this court to bear in mind the need to protect other road users from the respondent," said the judge.

Chew, who got her driving licence in December 2018, was fined $150 and given six demerit points for speeding in February 2019, Deputy Public Prosecutor Thiagesh Sukumaran told the court.

She was again speeding at 70kmh when she collided into Mr Wong's bicycle in West Camp Road. The speed limit was 50kmh.

Mr Wong, 37, suffered severe traumatic brain injuries as a result of the collision.

Although he has recovered, he has permanently lost the use of his left arm and could not return to his original job in the construction sector.

The prosecutor said that three months after the accident, on Sept 17, 2019, Chew was given a warning and nine demerit points for inconsiderate driving.

In February, a district judge ordered Chew to undergo 12 months' probation, during which she had to perform 60 hours of community service and undertake not to drive.

The DPP argued that the probation order failed to adequately address the fact that Chew was an unsafe driver.

He also pointed out the stark contrast in outcomes for the victim and Chew.

"It's unjust and unfair that the respondent received a probation order, while the victim has to suffer for the rest of his life," he said.

The prosecutor sought either imprisonment of two weeks or a short detention order, coupled with a driving ban of three to four years.

Chew's lawyer, Mr Lau Kah Hee, argued that probation was appropriate.

A short detention order is a community sentence in which offenders are detained in prison for up to 14 days, but will not have a criminal record after their release.

Justice Hoong said he handed down a community sentence to Chew due to her age.

"I believe that she deserves a second chance, and it is my hope that the respondent learns from this unfortunate episode of her life and fully appreciates the importance and necessity of obeying traffic rules and respecting the safety of other road users," said the judge.