Singapore High Court judge rejects appeal to up man’s jail sentence by four days

Aerial view of Singapore Skyline and Supreme Court. —TODAY file pic
Aerial view of Singapore Skyline and Supreme Court. —TODAY file pic

SINGAPORE, Bec 13 — A High Court judge has rejected prosecutors’ appeal to put a man behind bars for four days more, albeit to mark the offender with a criminal record.

Justice See Kee Oon said the 10 days’ Short Detention Order imposed on Teo Chang Heng for one count of mischief by driving his car into his wife’s car a couple of times, was not inappropriate, given the “unusual and quite exceptional” circumstances.

Teo, 44, who had a spotless driving record, was not a perpetrator in a typical road rage case, the judge said. Rather, he was “provoked into a rage” on seeing his wife’s boyfriend driving her car on Aug 19 last year, but had not injured anyone nor exposed other road users to any danger, he added.

“The respondent snapped and acted rashly and impulsively, in hot blood and without actual planning or premeditation. But he had acted consciously and deliberately,” said Justice See, in judgment grounds issued yesterday.

The couple was separated at that time, and remain married now.

“Within a matter of moments, he immediately sought to atone for what he had done — he called the police to surrender himself. His act of self-reporting his offence was demonstrably spontaneous, reflecting genuine remorse and palpable contrition. This strongly indicates his potential for rehabilitation and reintegration into society,” the judge added.

Short Detention Orders are a community-based sentencing option for judges to jail offenders up to 14 days but not mark them with a criminal record. Prosecutors had argued against this, saying Teo’s deliberate use of violence deserved a criminal record, which would serve to deter the general public from taking matters into their own hands on the roads.

Disagreeing, Justice See said Short Detention Orders should not be seen as a soft option, since it involves a spell of incarceration and could deter would-be offenders. Teo was also ordered to perform 120 hours of community service.

If the facts of the case had warranted a much lengthier term of imprisonment, say, exceeding four weeks, perhaps a community-based sentencing option would be less suitable, he noted.

In Teo’s case, his aggression was targetted specifically at the driver, and mostly, if not primarily, at the car, said Justice See. Teo rear-ended his wife’s car twice and side-swiped it. The damage cost S$2,980 to repair, which Teo paid for.

“Quite ironically it was almost as if he had wilfully caused damage to his own property since the car belonged to his spouse and he had helped to maintain it,” the judge said. “She was agreeable for the charge to be withdrawn and had forgiven him.”

There was also no evidence that he had driven dangerously or recklessly, or infringed any other traffic rules, the judge added.

Noting that Teo had acted completely out of character and was unlikely to reoffend after this first brush with the law, Justice See said: “I do not believe (the sentence of a Short Detention Order) will somehow convey an unintended signal to embolden others to act in a similar fashion. I reiterate that the facts of this case are unusual and quite exceptional.” — TODAY

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