Youth gets jail, caning for assault which killed victim

Sentence has to reflect society's utter abhorrence of offender's action, says judge

Liew was sentenced to 81/2 years in jail and 24 strokes of the cane.
Liew was sentenced to 81/2 years in jail and 24 strokes of the cane.

A district judge yesterday sentenced a 19-year-old to 81/2 years in jail and 24 strokes of the cane over a fatal assault that he described as "among the worst" involving grievous hurt that the State Courts have seen.

Jeron Liew Wei Jie was 18 when he attacked another youth who lay unconscious on the ground, after he had declined to take up a challenge to fight.

The victim, Mr Kelvin Gan Teck Xiang, also 18, suffered a broken skull and bleeding in the brain. He died in hospital five days later.

Liew's sentence also covered two other crimes - robbery with hurt, and drug use.

District Judge Lim Keng Yeow said Liew's criminal record also showed a "worrying level of recalcitrance and propensity for reoffending".

Liew was put on probation for unlawful assembly in early 2011, sent to a juvenile home for housebreaking and theft in late 2011, jailed six weeks for causing hurt in 2013 and jailed for a week for affray in 2014.

He pleaded guilty to his latest crimes in April. Two counts of having a knife in public and two charges of having cigarettes as a minor were taken into account in sentencing.

In his sentencing remarks, Judge Lim said: "A family came to lose a son irretrievably and under the most senseless of circumstances. The court is acutely aware that no words will be sufficient to describe the grief and pain that the victim's family has borne for more than a year (and) as a result, grief and pain may continue for some time, in spite of today's outcome.

"These considerations bear down gravely on this case. The sentence simply has to reflect society's utter abhorrence of the offender's action."

Handcuffed, shackled and wearing prison attire - a white T-shirt and brown trousers - Liew stood in the dock with his head bowed as Judge Lim spoke. He was allowed to speak with his mother before being taken back to jail, where he has been remanded since May last year.

On May 23 last year, Mr Gan, a Malaysian, checked into a hotel for a friend's 18th birthday the next day, the court heard. Just after midnight, he went with friends to Club Casanovi at Parklane Mall.

At about 2am, the group bumped into Liew, who was on his way to get supper opposite the mall. Liew went up to the group as he knew one of Mr Gan's friends.

But Liew found Mr Gan "acting proud and showing a bad attitude", Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Sarah Shi said. He also thought Mr Gan was boasting about belonging to a gang, and challenged him to a fight, but the victim declined to do so.

Mr Gan made a phone call as he crossed the road. Suspecting him to be calling for "back-up", Liew pulled him by the collar into an alley. Liew raised his fists and again challenged him to a fight, to no avail.

At about 2.45am, Liew punched Mr Gan's face twice and he fell backwards, hitting his head on the ground. Liew yanked his collar and called out to him, but he was unconscious.

Liew again challenged Mr Gan to hit him and slapped his face twice. Liew then forcefully hurled Mr Gan's head down to hit the kerb and kicked his face twice, before Mr Gan's friends pulled Liew away.

Mr Gan was carried into a taxi and back to the hotel by his friends. At some point, he regained consciousness and said he was in pain, but lapsed back into what his friends thought was sleep. They called for an ambulance at about 9am, when they realised he was unresponsive.

Separately on Jan 16 last year, Liew, along with two friends, robbed lorry driver Balasubramaniam Sureshkumar, 29, of two cellphones worth $370 in total. The next month, Liew was caught for drug use. He admitted to taking methamphetamine since late 2013.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 12, 2016, with the headline 'Youth gets jail, caning for assault which killed victim'. Print Edition | Subscribe