Punishment for separate offences

Jail terms should generally be consecutive: CJ

Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon said that, as a general rule, offenders should be punished separately for each separate offence.
Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon said that, as a general rule, offenders should be punished separately for each separate offence.ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

Having them run concurrently would give offender free pass for second offence, he says

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 yesterday.

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.

CJ Menon said this as he ordered two jail terms imposed on a 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.

Raveen Balakrishnan, 24, will now have to serve 41/2 years in jail instead of 31/2 years originally.

The prosecution had appealed against his 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 appeal.

On Oct 9, 2016, Raveen slashed a 20-year-old man with a knife outside the St James Power Station club, leaving 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 a victim from a different group.

On Oct 10, Raveen was sentenced to 31/2 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 31/2 years' jail.

Arguing that they should run consecutively, Deputy Public Prosecutor Sarah Shi said the district judge failed to appreciate that the two offences were separated by about six months. By ordering concurrent sentences, the judge effectively allowed Raveen to evade punishment for the rioting charge, she noted.

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

CJ Menon 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 rioting from two years to a year not because the original sentence was wrong, but because this would yield a proportionate total sentence of 41/2 years' jail when both terms are ordered to run consecutively.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 09, 2018, with the headline 'Jail terms should generally be consecutive: CJ'. Print Edition | Subscribe