Court upholds $5,000 fine for 'provoked' cyclist who punched SMRT bus driver

Judicial Commissioner See Kee Oon found that the original sentence of a $5,000 fine was sufficient.
Judicial Commissioner See Kee Oon found that the original sentence of a $5,000 fine was sufficient.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - A road-rage altercation between a cyclist and the driver of an SMRT bus, which was the last bus plying the route, left about 20 passengers having to find alternative means of transport to get home, the High Court heard on Friday (April 29).

The prosecution had appealed for the cyclist, Ngan Swee Choon, 54, to be given a jail term for punching bus driver Subramaniam Rajoo, 53, in the face.

But Judicial Commissioner See Kee Oon found that the original sentence of a $5,000 fine, handed down by a district judge last September (2015), was sufficient. He found that Ngan was provoked as he had felt that Mr Subramaniam's driving had put his life in danger.

The court heard that Ngan was cycling along Serangoon Road on the night of June 8, 2014, when Mr Subramaniam sounded his horn before overtaking him.

Ngan, who claimed trial to the charge of hurting the driver, testified that the bus was travelling fast and came very close to him as it passed him. He said it was so close that he could touch the bus as it overtook him.

When the bus stopped for passengers to board and alight, Ngan cycled past the bus, left his bicycle on a grass patch and boarded the bus.

He confronted Mr Subramaniam angrily and then took out his phone to take a photo of the driver to shame him online.

When the driver stretched out his hand to block the camera, Ngan punched him.

Mr Subramaniam called for the police and waited in the bus for them to arrive. He was later given three days' medical leave for bruising and swelling over his left eye.

Ngan contested the charge of causing hurt in a three-day trial but was convicted and sentenced to a $5,000 fine. His older brother, who hired lawyers Kenneth Au-Yong and Joanne Chew to defend him, paid his legal bills as well as his fine.

On Friday, Deputy Public Prosecutor April Phang argued that Ngan should be jailed as this was a case of road rage, aggravated by the fact that a public transport worker had been assaulted. She argued that Mr Subramaniam was a "sitting duck" as he could not abandon his job or compromise the safety of his passengers by speeding away.

Mr Au-Yong argued that his client was provoked by Mr Subramaniam's dangerous driving, which put him in fear for his life.