Driver loses appeal against jail for crash that killed baby

P-plate motorist did not have right of way when he crossed junction, hit oncoming car

CJ Menon said the fact that the baby was not in a child restraint was not relevant.
CJ Menon said the fact that the baby was not in a child restraint was not relevant.

A young probationary driver who caused the death of a baby in a car he hit appealed against his four-week jail term, arguing that the death was partly caused by the negligence of the baby's father in not using a child restraint.

Yesterday, Nickson Guay Seng Tiong's appeal for a fine instead of jail was quashed by the High Court.

"In my judgment, the failure to properly secure the deceased in an approved restraint is not a relevant consideration in sentencing since it can have no bearing on the negligence of the appellant," said Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon.

"The fact of the matter remains that the appellant drove into a cross junction without keeping a proper lookout."

Just before 8pm on Oct 20, 2014, Guay, then 21, was driving his Mazda car in the extreme right lane of North Buona Vista Road and failed to stop at the junction before turning right into Ayer Rajah Avenue.

He encroached into the path of motorist Wong Yin Tung, who was travelling straight from the opposite direction.

Guay, who had got his new car for less than a week, did not wait for the traffic light to turn red and for the "right-turn arrow" to appear before making the turn.

Mr Wong, whose wife and child were in the back seat, had the right of way. The baby, 2½-month-old Maxine Sai Wai Wong, was being breastfed by his mother.

After the accident, she flagged down a stranger's car and asked for help to take her and her baby to hospital. Tests revealed that he had a blood clot in his brain but died during the surgery to remove it.

Along with his jail term, Guay was also banned from driving for five years in April last year after he pleaded guilty to causing the baby's death.

CJ Menon made it clear that criminal law does not need to apportion responsibility between all persons involved. Instead, it is concerned with punishment of the offender for his criminal conduct.

He added: "That the deceased was not in an approved restraint is neither here nor there. It... does not in any way impact the assessment of whether the appellant was more or less negligent in failing to meet the standard of care which is expected of all drivers."

The mother, who wanted to be known only as Mrs Wong, yesterday told The Straits Times: "Max was a happy and strong boy, my beautiful son, and he gave me the most amazing memories. Every day he is in our hearts."

She appealed to drivers to be more careful and hopes more can be done to educate them that they are not simply individuals on the road, but part of a community of road users who need to look out for each other.

"Drivers need to feel more responsible for their actions," she said.

The maximum penalty for causing death by negligence is two years' jail and a fine.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 14, 2016, with the headline Driver loses appeal against jail for crash that killed baby. Subscribe