In one of the worst cases of assault against a police officer, a man was jailed for life and given 18 strokes of the cane in the High Court yesterday.
Muhammad Iskandar Sa'at, 26, had snatched the officer's revolver and fired three rounds during a scuffle at the Khoo Teck Puat Hospital in Yishun on June 20, 2015, at around 7pm as he tried to escape from custody. Two rounds penetrated the officer's left thumb and right foot.
Iskandar was in remand for vehicle theft after being charged in the State Courts on the same day. He had sought medical treatment and was escorted to the hospital by two officers.
The delivery man pleaded guilty yesterday to a single charge of having a firearm under the Arms Offences Act in causing hurt to a public servant. Three other charges were taken into consideration for the purpose of sentencing.
In handing down the sentence yesterday, Justice Chan Seng Onn agreed with the prosecution on the aggravating factors involved and stressed this was an extremely serious offence.
The court heard that Iskandar had first attacked Staff Sergeant Muhammad Sadli Razali with an intravenous drip pole while in a room in the hospital meant for patients under police custody. In the ensuing struggle, he forcefully hit the officer at least 13 times with the police T-baton before snatching the revolver and firing three shots.
Deputy Public Prosecutors Kumaresan Gohulabalan and Kelly Ho said Iskandar "went to extreme lengths to try to escape lawful custody", adding that Staff Sgt Sadli "is fortunate to be alive".
"It was fortuitous that Staff Sgt Sadli managed to pull the offender onto the ground to avert a potential tragedy. At least five other persons were in the room or near the room entrance when the offender had possession of the revolver, and were thus in harm's way," said the prosecution.
Two paramedics went to Staff Sgt Sadli's aid at the time, and three uniformed officers subsequently came to the room to help subdue Iskandar and remove the weapon from his hand. When the shots were fired, Iskandar was in a supine position on the floor and his right hand holding the revolver had been pinned down by Staff Sgt Sadli.
In arguing for a deterrent punishment, the prosecution said: "The attack took place during visiting hours in a public hospital when there would invariably be significant human traffic. Such an act of wanton violence in a public place necessarily raises public disquiet and necessitates a heavier sentence."
In his mitigation, Iskandar's assigned lawyers Shashi Nathan and Tania Chin from Withers KhattarWong said their client had struggled with drug addiction. He had last injected himself with heroin some 27 hours before the incident and was struggling with acute withdrawal.
Mr Nathan said Iskandar wanted to escape to explain himself to his girlfriend's family and his parents. His girlfriend was also arrested for the alleged theft.
The lawyer added that Iskandar had intended to use the revolver butt to hit the policeman, and at no time intended to aim the gun at anyone. Mr Nathan said that during the scuffle, both Iskandar and the police officer fell to the ground, and one of the paramedics had placed a pillow over the gun. The pillow was then held by both the police officer and Iskandar. The three shots were fired while the pillow was over the gun.
Mr Nathan said Iskandar accepted full responsibility and made no excuses for his actions, deeply regretting his folly.
After the sentencing, Iskandar broke down and his family members showed relief. Under the law, a person convicted of discharging a firearm can be punished with the death penalty.
"His family and I are both deeply grateful to the prosecution for having carefully considered the circumstances and being fair in reducing the charge," said Mr Nathan.