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In a first, State appeals for offender to get lighter sentence

SINGAPORE — In the first case of its kind for Singapore’s courts, the prosecution today (Sept 18) appealed for an offender’s sentence to be reduced — and succeeded in getting an errant cyclist’s eight-week jail term cut to three weeks.

TODAY file photo

TODAY file photo

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SINGAPORE — In the first case of its kind for Singapore’s courts, the prosecution today (Sept 18) appealed for an offender’s sentence to be reduced — and succeeded in getting an errant cyclist’s eight-week jail term cut to three weeks.

Lim Choon Teck, 35, was sentenced to the longer jail term last week after he had pleaded guilty to knocking into an elderly pedestrian while he was cycling on a pavement, and injuring her.

Referring to Lim’s case as an “unusual appeal” today, Deputy Public Prosecutor Prem Raj Prabakaran told the High Court that the prosecution considered the eight-week jail sentence to be manifestly excessive and disproportionate.

Noting that the accused does not have a lawyer, DPP Prem said: “As Lim ... does not have the benefit of appropriate legal advice or counsel, the Public Prosecutor is pursuing this appeal in the public interest – to ensure that Lim is fairly punished.”

He added: “Justice works both ways, to the victim and also to the accused person.”

In a media statement later, the Attorney-General’s Chambers said: “The Public Prosecutor oversees the administration of criminal justice and has no interest in securing excessive sentences when the facts do not warrant such sentences.”

Attorney-General V K Rajah added: “It is a crucial aspect of the administration of criminal justice in Singapore that all offenders are appropriately punished – neither in a manifestly inadequate nor in a manifestly excessive manner – to ensure justice is done.”

On Sept 7, Lim was sentenced by District Judge Lee-Khoo Poh Choo to eight weeks’ jail for his rash act of cycling at an “unsafe speed” on the pavement near a bus-stop at Ang Mo Kio Avenue 8 on May 17. He is the first person to be hauled to court for hurting a pedestrian while cycling on the pavement.

That rash act saw him colliding with a 69-year-old pedestrian, Madam Chng Kian, and left her with fractures on her right upper arm and wrist.

Following the collision, Lim handed over his identity card after the victim’s husband, Mr Ng Seok Choon, 74, demanded for his particulars. But before Mr Ng could take down all of Lim’s details, the cyclist snatched his IC and sped off.

Given the growing popularity of personal mobility devices and the increasing number of summons issued for cycling on pavements, DPP Prem said today that the threat to the safety of pedestrians is real, and Lim should be jailed for his offence to deter others.

However, the prosecution felt that appropriate jail term was between two and four weeks.

In his appeal, the DPP said the district judge had compared Lim’s “rash acts” to “killer litter” cases, and had also drawn parallels to “hit-and-run” road traffic offences in her grounds of judgment release yesterday.

According to DPP Prem, the comparison to road traffic offences was flawed because Lim was a cyclist on a pavement and could not be charged under the Road Traffic Act.

He also noted that the district judge had erred on her assumption that “before (Mr Ng) could take down” Lim’s details, the cyclist took back his identity card and sped off when in fact, some details, such as his NRIC number, were recorded.

This meant that “Lim was traced quite quickly and with minimal effort”, said the DPP, countering the district judge’s inference that much time and effort were needed to track down Lim.

DPP Prem noted that in this case, there were no sentencing precedents with similar facts. However, he drew comparisons with other cases of rash driving to show how “manifestly excessive” Lim’s sentence was. For instance, a driver, who had fled the scene following an accident, was slapped with a three-month jail term for injuring two people, including a cyclist who ended up being wheelchair-bound for life.

The judge had also “failed to account for Lim having pleaded guilty at the first reasonable opportunity”, DPP Prem said.

Justice Chan Seng Onn said that by and large, he agreed with the DPP’s submissions and reduced Lim’s jail sentence. Having served 18 days in prison since he was remanded in custody on Sept 1, Lim could be released today.

He could have been jailed up to six months and fined S$2,500.

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