PUTRAJAYA, April 11 — A three-judge panel at the Court of Appeal today unanimously ruled to overturn Sam Ke Ting’s conviction for “reckless driving or dangerous driving” that resulted in the deaths of eight boys who were riding illegally modified bicycles seven years ago.
The panel chaired by Datuk Hadhariah Syed Ismail ruled in favour of Sam’s appeal and cancelled her six-year jail sentence and RM6,000 fine.
“You are now a free person,” Hadhariah told Sam when announcing the judgment at the Palace of Justice here.
The other judges on the bench were Justices Datuk Hashim Hamzah and Datuk Azman Abdullah.
Today's hearing marks the final avenue for the case to be heard, as this case started in the Magistrate's Court — meaning it cannot be appealed further to the Federal Court after a Court of Appeal decision.
The judges today ruled that Sam's appeal against the High Court's decision should be allowed, as she had been found guilty under a defective charge.
They agreed with Sam's lawyers that the charge at the High Court, which was phrased as "reckless or dangerous driving", contained two separate offences and therefore had "duplicity".
“Thus the charge brought by the prosecution has violated the provisions of Section 163 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC),” said Hadhariah.
Section 163 of the CPC states that there needs to be a separate charge for every distinct offence a person is accused of.
Hadhariah then said that she and the judges seated next to her had decided to overturn the High Court's conviction last year, as both the charge and conviction “did not follow the law”.
She also ordered that the bail payments made by Sam should be returned.
Hadhariah also commented on the judgments made by Magistrate Siti Hajar Ali, who had acquitted Sam in 2019 and 2021, and on High Court judge Abu Bakar Katar — who had found Sam guilty last year.
“The [High Court] judge seemed to not consider the 'basikal lajak' activity at all.
“You have got to be fair. That's why the magistrate did a maximum evaluation, the findings of the magistrate are correct. As [the magistrate] said, the accident was impossible to avoid because the dangerous situation was created by the 'basikal lajak' riders,” she said.
“Basikal lajak” refers to usually fixed-gear bicycles that have been heavily modified, which also includes shortened handlebars and stem, and plastic sports rims. They can easily be bought or modified in local bicycle shops, and even through online shopping platforms.
The bicycles are frequently ridden by teenagers and children, who race downhill with each other along public roads and highways where or when there is little traffic. After reaching high speeds, the riders usually take the “Superman position”, with their abdomen on the saddle and the legs extended backwards, preventing access to the pedals.
Hadhariah also said that the court is sympathetic towards the families of the eight deceased, but the decision it makes must be made according to the law and according to the evidence brought before it.
“We cannot say that when there is an accident that results in deaths, it is definitely the motorcar driver who is liable. That is not the stance of the law,” she said.
The Court of Appeal's decision was made after the prosecution completed its submissions today, where deputy public prosecutor Tengku Amir Zaki Tengku Abdul Rahman argued that just because there was duplicity in the charge, does not mean there was a failure of justice or prejudice against the defendant.
He cited several case laws to support his argument.
Deputy public prosecutor Muhammad Syafiq Mohd Ghazali was also in the prosecution’s team.
As for Sam, her lead defence counsel Datuk Hisyam Teh Poh Teik and co-counsel Harvinderjit Singh presented arguments on her behalf during the appeal hearing at the Court of Appeal.
The nine other lawyers on Sam’s legal team for the appeal are Muhammad Faizal Mokhtar, Guok Ngek Seong, Farhan Read, Yasmeen Soh Sha-Nisse, Peter Siew, Shanthiny Ng Ya Ting, Harvinder Singh Sidhu, Dennis Chong Chin Wei, and Lim Wei Ling.