PUTRAJAYA, March 15 — A lorry driver escaped the gallows after the Court of Appeal here today commuted the sentence to 20 years in prison for causing the death of his girlfriend, six years ago.

A three-judge panel comprising justices Datuk Nor Bee Ariffin, Datuk Ahmad Nasfy Yasin and Datuk Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali made the unanimous decision after allowing the appeal of N. Sanderasegaran, 34, as the appellant.

Judge Nor Bee set aside the conviction under Section 302 of the Penal Code and replaced it with a conviction and sentence under Section 304 (a) of the same code, after being satisfied that the appeal had merit.

On October 2, 2018, Sanderasegaran was sentenced to death by the Ipoh High Court for killing his girlfriend, S. Durga Devi, 17, at a house in Kampung Batu Besi, Ladang Sengat, Simpang Pulai between 11pm on February 27, 2016, and 6am the next day.

Earlier, lawyer Afifuddin Ahmad Hafifi, who represented Sanderasegaran, applied for the conviction and sentence against his client under Section 302 to be set aside and replaced with Section 304 (a).

Afifuddin argued that there was a flaw in the narrative presented by the sixth prosecution witness (SP6), who was the appellant’s neighbour, that he did not witness the incident that night, while the voices he heard were mere assumptions.

The lawyer said there was a serious miscarriage of justice against his client when the prosecution did not offer a witness named Peruwati Samiran (SP6’s wife) who was said to have witnessed the incident.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Mohd Fairuz Johari, on the other hand, argued that the conviction and sentence were safe to uphold because the trial judge had made the findings of the case based on the testimony of witnesses during the trial.

“The version that a robbery had taken place was investigated and found to be baseless, while there were no footprints of individuals in the house to prove the existence of other parties at the scene. The trial judge was also satisfied that SP6 was a credible witness, and had no intention of persecuting the appellant,” he said. — Bernama