Prosecution appeals against 3 months' jail for cabby in high-speed car chase

Cabby Aw Tai Hock was sentenced to three months' jail in March (2017) for dangerous driving was back in court on Wednesday (Aug 23) after the prosecution appealed for a stiffer sentence.
Cabby Aw Tai Hock was sentenced to three months' jail in March (2017) for dangerous driving was back in court on Wednesday (Aug 23) after the prosecution appealed for a stiffer sentence. ST GRAPHICS

SINGAPORE - A cabby who was sentenced to three months' jail in March (2017) for dangerous driving was back in court on Wednesday (Aug 23) after the prosecution appealed for a stiffer sentence.

Cabby Aw Tai Hock started a high-speed car chase, racing across 11 speed bumps, and at one time, driving against the flow of traffic in pursuit of Mr Mohd Andy Abdullah, who had damaged his cab with weapons. Aw nearly collided several times with several pedestrians and other vehicles during the chase, which lasted about 5 minutes.

The bad blood between Aw and Mr Andy began when Aw picked him up on June 7 (2016) but Mr Andy refused to pay the fare at the end of the cab ride. So, Aw, 56, tailed Mr Andy from Pasir Ris the next day, and confronted him at a carpark in Yishun Street 81.

Mr Andy got out of his multi-purpose vehicle (MPV) and, with his friend, struck Aw's taxi with a parang and baton. Aw, who never got out of the taxi, then turned sharply and started driving towards Mr Andy, and later, rammed the cab into the side of the MPV repeatedly.

Mr Andy and his friend got into their car and drove off, but Aw was not appeased.

He began the car chase, which came to an end only at Yishun Avenue 4, after Mr Andy's car crashed into a stationary car, which flipped over and narrowly missed hitting a pedestrian. Aw was sentenced to jail for three months but the prosecution appealed against the sentence, calling it "manifestly inadequate".

In court on Wednesday, Deputy Public Prosecutor Bhajanvir Singh asked the court to give Aw at least five months' imprisonment for "one of the worst cases of dangerous driving ever seen".

Said Mr Singh: "It was quite clear that Aw had used the vehicle as a weapon of harm and he was out there to cause damage. His manner of driving posed a particularly high risk, not just to Andy but to multiple road users as well."

Aw, who did not have a lawyer in court, was also disqualified from driving for three years, but the prosecution did not appeal against this.

Footage from Aw's in-car camera, seen in court on Wednesday, showed how Aw chased Mr Andy. When Mr Andy's car crashed into a stationary car, and that car - with the driver still in it - flipped over and nearly hit a pedestrian, Aw did not stop. He did not even check if the driver was hurt. Instead, he continued to chase Mr Andy, who was running away.

Mr Singh said while the district judge gave more weight to how Mr Andy initiated the attack, it did not make Aw's crime any less serious. The prosecutor said: "He made a deliberate and calculated decision to pursue Andy to immobilise and apprehend him... He took the law into his own hands in a reckless attempt to administer vigilante justice, and did so without concern for the consequences to the public."

He added that with the several near-misses, it was only due to "good fortune" that serious injury had not arisen.

Aw, who pleaded for a lighter sentence, told the judge that he is the main caregiver for his 80-year-old mother and younger sister, who has cerebral palsy. He said he chased Mr Andy to ensure that he did not throw away the weapons. The judge told Aw: "You're not a police officer."

Aw also said it was "puzzling" that his sentence was stiffer than the one Mr Andy got, when he was the one who first came at him with a weapon. The judge said he would consider these questions before he made a ruling.

Mr Andy was given a $2,000 fine and disqualified from driving for four months in July for dangerous driving. He was also convicted of multiple drug offences, resulting in a total of 10 years'jail and 16 strokes of the cane.

Judge of Appeal Steven Chong has reserved judgment.