Prosecution succeeds in getting cyclist's jail term cut

Court slashes 8-week term to 3 weeks on appeal; A-G says it's vital for punishment to be appropriate

Madam Chng Kian, 69, describing how cyclist Lim Choon Teck, 35, collided into her on a pavement in Ang Mo Kio in May. Madam Chng ended up with fractures in her upper arm and wrist. Lim fled before Madam Chng's husband could take down his full details, but the police tracked him down. PHOTO: SHIN MIN DAILY NEWS

In a Singapore first, the prosecution yesterday appealed to cut an offender's sentence.

And it succeeded after the court slashed an eight-week jail term to three for a cyclist who knocked down an elderly pedestrian. In a statement to the media after the appeal, Attorney-General V.K. Rajah said it is vital to ensure offenders are punished appropriately - "neither in a manifestly inadequate nor in a manifestly excessive manner".

The case involved 35-year-old Lim Choon Teck, who knocked down Madam Chng Kian, 69, and left her with upper arm and wrist fractures while cycling on a pavement in Ang Mo Kio in May.

Lim then fled before the victim's 74-year-old husband could take down his full details. The police tracked him down from his identity card number.

Earlier this month, the prosecution pushed for at least two weeks' jail, but District Judge Lee-Khoo Poh Choo decided on a much longer sentence. She said there was a need to deter such behaviour - comparing it to "killer litter" cases that also involved rash acts.

The sentence also reflected Lim's "selfish, cowardly and irresponsible manner" for not staying with the elderly couple until the ambulance arrived, she added.

But the prosecution believed this was disproportionate to his culpability and the fact that he had pleaded guilty at the first reasonable opportunity. "Justice works both ways, to the victim as well as to the accused person," said Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Prem Raj Prabakaran.

He told the High Court yesterday that a jail sentence was warranted to deter others from cycling on pavements, given the increased popularity of personal mobility devices such as motorised bicycles and electric skate scooters.

Referring to parliamentary debates earlier this year in which three MPs raised the issue, DPP Prem highlighted that over the past five years, 3,500 summonses were issued for cycling on footpaths.

The degree of Lim's recklessness and the grievous hurt caused to Madam Chng also pointed to a jail term, he added.

But the DPP argued that the district judge was wrong to impose eight weeks, instead of the two to four weeks sought by the prosecution. Lim, who was not represented by a lawyer, was the first cyclist to be hauled to court for riding on a pavement and there were no similar sentencing precedents .

The DPP pointed out that even when compared to cases of rash driving, eight weeks was manifestly excessive. He gave the example of a driver who was jailed six weeks last year for causing the death of a motorcyclist who had the right of way.

The DPP also said the district judge was wrong to compare Lim's case to killer litter and hit-and-run offences. She also should not have considered a cyclist's lack of insurance coverage and the difficulty for victims to claim compensation. These, he argued, were not relevant in a criminal prosecution.

High Court Judge Chan Seng Onn, who will give written reasons at a later date for why he imposed three weeks' jail, said yesterday that "by and large", he agreed with the DPP's arguments. He told Lim, who has served 18 days in jail, that he could be released yesterday if he is given remission.

Lim, who was remanded after he was charged in court on Sept 1 and pleaded guilty six days later, could have been jailed for up to six months and fined $2,500.

"All stakeholders in our criminal justice system, including the Attorney-General's Chambers, shoulder this heavy responsibility to ensure fairness and proportionality in the punishment meted out," said the Attorney-General.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 19, 2015, with the headline Prosecution succeeds in getting cyclist's jail term cut. Subscribe