Sentencing guide 'likely needed' for PMD offences

High Court: Let cases be brought to courts before setting guidelines

Cyclist Cai Mei Ying was sentenced to two weeks' jail by the State Courts after she knocked down and injured a 77-year-old woman in September 2016. The High Court has upheld the sentence on appeal.
Cyclist Cai Mei Ying was sentenced to two weeks' jail by the State Courts after she knocked down and injured a 77-year-old woman in September 2016. The High Court has upheld the sentence on appeal.

The High Court has said a sentencing framework to deal with bicycle and personal mobility device (PMD) offenders knocking into pedestrian-victims is "likely to be needed" in due course.

As such situations require careful consideration of factors like sentencing imperatives, it is best to allow a number of cases to be brought before the courts and the relevant issues sieved through the adversarial process before setting such a structure, said Justice Aedit Abdullah.

"I would thus leave it for another day for the framework to be laid down," he added in decision grounds last week, dismissing an appeal involving such a case.

The judge indicated the courts are likely to take a stern view and impose jail sentences, which in future may be higher than the two weeks' jail term handed to Cai Mei Ying, which he upheld on appeal.

Cyclist Cai, 49, had knocked into a 77-year-old woman at a market compound in Bedok North in September 2016. The victim suffered a hip fracture and required surgery.

"I think it is quite telling that the collision occurred in front of a 'No Bicycles' sign," said Justice Aedit.

Cai had pleaded guilty in the State Courts last year to causing grievous hurt by a negligent act that endangered the personal safety of others.

The court heard then that Cai, who operates a stall selling bean curd and noodles at the market, had regularly rode her bicycle to and from her workplace as well as in the market. She was sentenced to two weeks' jail and ordered to pay $7,000 in compensation to the victim, Madam Ang Ah Soi.

Cai, defended by Senior Counsel Lok Vi Ming, appealed to the High Court against the sentence, while Deputy Public Prosecutor Christina Koh argued for the prosecution.

At issue was whether a jail term was justified for a cyclist who negligently knocked into a pedestrian and caused grievous hurt in a public space where cycling is banned.

Justice Aedit said he saw no reason to depart from the sentence imposed by the district judge as it was not "manifestly excessive".

The High Court had appointed lawyer Clarence Ding as young amicus curiae - friend of the court - in the case to help with considering a sentencing framework for offences under Section 338(B) of the Penal Code where grievous hurt is caused by the negligent riding of bicycles and PMDs.

"I do note that it is likely that a sentencing framework would be needed for cases involving bicycle or PMD accidents on pavements with pedestrians as victims," said the judge. "Shared spaces, whether roads or pavements, require most of all consideration and courtesy between all users. I hope that it will not come to pass that we will need a sentencing framework for pavement collisions, but real life will probably prove otherwise."

He strongly urged cyclists and PMD users "to exercise such due care and consideration; where injuries do arise because of the fault of the rider, it is likely that the courts will take a stern view and impose custodial sentences".

The use of PMDs and bicycles on footpaths has become a public concern in recent times. Last month, the Land Transport Authority announced tighter rules as part of ongoing efforts "to foster greater rider responsibility and encourage safe sharing of our paths and roads". Among other measures, cyclists and PMD users will no longer be able to ride at speeds above 10kmh on footpaths from Feb 1, and such users will have to stop and look out for vehicles at road crossings.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 14, 2019, with the headline Sentencing guide 'likely needed' for PMD offences. Subscribe