After serving jail term for assaulting taxi driver, man refuses to pay fares and attacks 3 more drivers
- Tan Wee Ming was previously jailed for assaulting a taxi driver
- He continued refusing to pay taxi fares ranging from S$14.20 to S$42
- When the three drivers demanded to be paid, he pushed them
- One fell to the ground and sustained a cut on his knee
SINGAPORE — Shortly after being released from prison for assaulting a taxi driver, Tan Wee Ming returned to his old ways and refused to pay his S$42 fare, shoving another taxi driver so hard he nearly fell over.
Tan was placed under investigation for this offence but went on to target two more taxi drivers over the next two years.
On Friday (June 17), the 33-year-old Singaporean was jailed for five weeks for his offences from 2018 to 2020.
He pleaded guilty to three charges of using criminal force on the victims. Two other charges under the Public Transport Council Act — for failing to pay his taxi fare — were taken into consideration for sentencing.
The court heard that he was previously jailed for five weeks in November 2017 for voluntarily causing hurt to a taxi driver, among other crimes such as possessing obscene films. As a teenager, he was ordered to undergo reformative training in 2008 for molestation offences.
On Aug 26, 2018 at about 7am, he approached taxi driver Chua Hock Kwee, 63, at the taxi stand of Sultan Plaza. Mr Chua had gone to pick his wife up from work and stopped for a moment to smoke a cigarette there.
Tan asked to go to Block 130 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 3 and for his female friend to be dropped off at a condominium along Toh Tuck Road.
Mr Chua told them that his wife had to ride in the front passenger seat. Tan agreed because they knew they would have difficulty flagging down another taxi at that point.
After Mr Chua dropped off Tan’s female friend at her home, Tan fell asleep in the taxi. Mr Chua then woke him up when they reached his destination and asked him to pay the S$42 fare.
Tan felt that this was too expensive and refused to do so, alighting from the vehicle.
Mr Chua told him that he would call the police but Tan ignored him and walked to the void deck of a housing block. Mr Chua then confronted him, prompting Tan to push him hard on the left shoulder.
The driver stumbled backwards and almost fell to the ground. When his wife tried to intervene, Tan walked away.
Mr Chua called the police and officers located him at a nearby coffee shop. Mr Chua felt pain in his shoulder and sought medical attention.
Tan offered to pay him S$62 for the medical fees and taxi fare but he refused to accept it, believing that Tan should also pay for the loss of earnings and taxi rental for the three days he was on medical leave.
PICKED UP FROM GEYLANG
Less than a year later, on March 23 in 2019, another ComfortDelGro taxi driver picked Tan up around the Geylang area at 3am and noticed that he reeked of alcohol.
When they got to Tan’s destination, Tan claimed that he had asked the driver to take him to Block 130 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 3 instead of Block 133. They were less than 50m away from Block 130 at that point.
Tan then insisted he would only pay S$10 rather than the fare of S$14.20.
He eventually got out of the taxi without paying and the taxi driver also alighted, standing in front of Tan to stop him from leaving. Tan then pushed him without warning.
The driver called the police and tried to stop Tan from leaving, while a member of the public came forward to help out.
A similar scenario played out on Jan 10, 2020.
A third taxi driver picked Tan up along Geylang Road and he asked to be taken to Block 130, but when they got there, Tan claimed he did not have enough money for the S$14.80 fare and had to go home to get some.
The taxi driver asked him to leave his belongings behind first, but Tan refused and left the taxi.
The driver also alighted and tried to take Tan’s photograph with his mobile phone. Tan then abruptly stepped towards the other man with his hands outstretched to snatch the device.
Seeing this gesture, the taxi driver took a step backwards and lost his balance, falling down on his knee and sustaining a small cut.
Tan walked away briskly and the driver tried to follow him while calling the police, but gave up after a few minutes.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Benedict Teong sought the sentence imposed.
He told the court that the prosecution usually would not ask for imprisonment for such cases, but Tan had a prior history of violence against a taxi driver, and public transport workers are “particularly vulnerable to violence”.
“He has shown himself to be a recalcitrant offender who was not rehabilitated and undeterred by his previous jail term,” the prosecutor added.
Tan’s lawyer, Mr Chua Hock Lu from Kalidass Law Corporation, asked for a shorter jail term of 18 days instead.
District Judge Wong Li Tein rejected the lawyer’s argument that Tan had shown a degree of restraint with the taxi drivers. She noted that it was “only natural” for the victims to confront him for payment when Tan tried to leave the scene.
“Public transport workers deal with a big variety of people on a daily basis, and should not have to suffer passengers who take them for a free ride then turn violent when payment is demanded.District Judge Wong Li Tein”
“Public transport workers deal with a big variety of people on a daily basis, and should not have to suffer passengers who take them for a free ride then turn violent when payment is demanded,” she added.
The judge also rejected Tan’s request to start his sentence two weeks later in order to reschedule medical appointments.
She also ordered him to compensate his third victim for the S$14.80 taxi fare. The second victim had refused to receive restitution of the fare from Tan.
For each charge of using criminal force otherwise than on grave and sudden provocation, he could have been jailed for up to three months or fined up to S$1,500, or punished with both.