Muhammad Faizal bin Rahim v Public Prosecutor

JurisdictionSingapore
JudgeTay Yong Kwang J
Judgment Date04 October 2011
Neutral Citation[2011] SGHC 221
CourtHigh Court (Singapore)
Docket NumberMagistrate’s Appeal No 104 of 2011
Year2011
Published date07 October 2011
Hearing Date29 August 2011
Plaintiff CounselAlfred Dodwell (Dodwell & Co)
Defendant CounselEugene Lee and Mark Jayaratnam (Attorney-General's Chambers),Woo Shu Yan (Drew & Napier LLC) as Amicus Curiae.
Subject MatterCriminal Procedure and Sentencing
Citation[2011] SGHC 221
Tay Yong Kwang J: Introduction

This appeal revisits the established position on the ambit of the “special reasons” exception in s 3(3) of the Motor Vehicles (Third-Party Risks & Compensations) Act (Cap 189, 2000 Rev Ed) (“MVA”). The appellant pleaded guilty to a charge of riding a motor cycle without insurance coverage. A related charge was taken into consideration with his consent. The District Judge imposed a fine of $500 (in default 3 days’ imprisonment) and a disqualification from holding or obtaining a driving licence for all classes for a period of 12 months from the date of conviction.1 The appellant appealed on the grounds that the sentence imposed was manifestly excessive and that there were “special reasons” for the court to reverse or to reduce the disqualification imposed.

I dismissed the appeal and now set out my reasons.

Facts Statement of Facts

The Statement of Facts which the appellant agreed to without any qualification reads as follows: The complainant is Corporal Muhd Rohani, attached to the Traffic Police Department. The defendant is Muhammad Faizal bin Rahim, male 30 yrs, Singapore citizen. On 10/11/2010 at about 3.10 am, along Loyang Avenue, complainant stopped motor cycle FP4534U. Upon checking, the rider’s particulars were furnished to be that of defendant. It was revealed that defendant was not the named rider of motor cycle FP4534U, thus he had ridden the said vehicle without insurance coverage, as the insurance policy covers only the named rider. Defendant had thus committed the following offences: Riding motor vehicle FP4534U without insurance coverage under Section 3(1) of the Motor Vehicle (Third-Party Risks & Compensations) Act, Chapter 189.

The statutory provision

The relevant sub-sections of s 3 of the MVA are set out as follows:

Users of motor vehicles to be insured against third-party risks 3. —(1) Subject to the provisions of this Act, it shall not be lawful for any person to use or to cause or permit any other person to use —

(a) a motor vehicle in Singapore; or

(b) a motor vehicle which is registered in Singapore in any territory specified in the Schedule,

unless there is in force in relation to the use of the motor vehicle by that person or that other person, as the case may be, such a policy of insurance or such a security in respect of third-party risks as complies with the requirements of this Act.

(2) If a person acts in contravention of this section, he shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding $1,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 3 months or to both.

(3) A person convicted of an offence under this section shall (unless the court for special reasons thinks fit to order otherwise and without prejudice to the power of the court to order a longer period of disqualification) be disqualified for holding or obtaining a driving licence under the Road Traffic Act (Cap. 276) for a period of 12 months from the date of the conviction.

Background

On 10 November 2010, at about 3am, the appellant was at work and was due for a meal break from his night shift. Just as he was about to ride off, his colleague suggested a ‘bike swap’ to test the appellant’s motorcycle. The appellant was reluctant initially but the said colleague kept urging him to do so. Eventually, the appellant absent-mindedly agreed to the ‘bike swap’ and rode off on his colleague’s motorcycle.2 He had forgotten that his motorcycle’s insurance policy covered only himself as the named rider. Similarly, his colleague’s motorcycle’s insurance policy covered only his colleague as the named rider.

Unknown to the appellant and his colleague, the Traffic Police had placed a road block near their workplace. The appellant and his colleague were stopped at the said road block. While furnishing his particulars, it was revealed to the police officer that the appellant was not the named rider of the motorcycle he was riding and he had thus ridden the said vehicle without insurance coverage as the insurance policy for that motorcycle covered only the appellant’s colleague.

The charge

The appellant was charged with using a motor cycle whilst there was not in force the requisite policy of insurance or security in respect of third party risks under Section 3(1), an offence punishable under Section 3(2) of the MVA. Another charge of permitting his colleague to use a vehicle while there was not in force the requisite policy of insurance or security in respect of third party risks was taken into consideration for the purpose of sentencing.

The appellant pleaded guilty.

The plea-in-mitigation

In his written mitigation, Counsel for the appellant submitted that the circumstances which led to this matter were truly unfortunate and that the appellant deeply regretted the offence and would never repeat it.3

According to Counsel, the appellant was merely absent minded and did not set out to violate or flout the traffic laws in Singapore.4 The appellant was described as a man who is prepared to work hard and has shouldered the responsibility of helping out with his family expenses. He is getting married in October 2011. 5

Notably, the appellant’s father had passed away in a motor cycle accident months prior to the commission of the offence.6 Counsel claimed that the accident influenced the appellant to “take extra precaution” of the traffic laws of Singapore. After his father’s death, the appellant also became the sole breadwinner of the family despite allegedly plunging into depression.7 Counsel also claimed that the appellant requires his driving licence to “drive his mother for frequent medical check up”.8

Counsel urged the Court to give the appellant a light fine and impose no further penalty as he was confident that the appellant would be more vigilant hereafter and would be unlikely to ever violate the law again.9

The District Judge’s decision

The District Judge was of the view that there were no exceptional or compelling facts before her that would justify a departure from the usual sentencing tariff. She also found no facts which would qualify as special reasons.10 The District Judge thus sentenced the appellant to a fine of $500 in default 3 days’ imprisonment and imposed a disqualification from holding or obtaining a driving licence for all classes for a period of 12 months from the date of conviction.

The District Judge observed that for a first offender under s 3(1) of the MVA, an order of disqualification for all classes of vehicles for a period of at least 12 months from the date of conviction would naturally follow in most instances because it is difficult for offenders to qualify under the “special reasons” exception in 3(3) of the MVA.11

The District Judge then cited the established proposition that circumstances peculiar to the offender (as distinguished from the offence) do not qualify as “special reasons” and that nothing short of an emergency would give rise to a possible finding that “special reasons” exist.

Having considered that this was neither an instance where the appellant was facing a medical emergency nor one where the appellant had explored every other possibility before riding his colleague’s motorcycle, the District Judge held that no “special reasons” were made out by the appellant.12 The death of the appellant’s father and his allegedly affected mental state also did not amount to “special reasons” as there was no causal link between the appellant’s mental state and the commission of the offence.13

The appellant’s appeal on sentencing The appellant’s submissions

The appellants raised the following arguments on appeal: The appellant has been made to suffer 3 separate sets of punishment – (1) fine of $500, (2) the mandatory 12-month disqualification and (3) loss of his driving licence requiring him to take the whole driving course again which is additional punishment that has no bearing whatsoever to the crime;14 An infraction of s 3 of the MVA should only lead to a mandatory disqualification in circumstances where the facts of the case indicate the offender’s wilful disregard for the law;15 Even for strict liability offences, a distinction in sentencing should be drawn between deliberate and faultless contravention with a fine being more than sufficient punishment for the latter;16 What amounts to “special reasons” in s 3(3) of the MVA has been interpreted too narrowly in Singapore and the Singapore Courts should give “special reasons” a wider and more flexible interpretation that allows the courts to consider all the circumstances of the case (i.e., circumstances peculiar to the offender);17 The courts should be given more sentencing options such as providing for no disqualification or for a term of disqualification of less than 12 months even if no “special reasons” are found on a case by case basis;18 The District Judge should have exercised her discretion to consider the whole of the circumstances surrounding the commission of the offence in deciding whether to disqualify the appellant or not.19

Based on these arguments, the appellant submitted that the sentence imposed was manifestly excessive and that “special reasons” existed for this court to reverse or reduce the disqualification imposed.20

The prosecution’s submissions

The prosecution raised the following arguments in response: A contravention of s 3(1) of the MVA is a serious offence and a strict prophylactic approach is necessary to ensure that there is adequate provision for compensation;21 It is trite law that s 3(1) is a strict liability offence for which there is a defence of reasonable care;22 The policy behind the mandatory 12 months’ disqualification in s 3(3) is deterrence, thus the threshold for establishing “special reasons” to reduce the disqualification period is necessarily a stringent one. Otherwise, this would defeat the underlying...

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4 cases
  • Muhammad Faizal
    • Singapore
    • High Court (Singapore)
    • 4 October 2011
    ...Faizal bin Rahim Plaintiff and Public Prosecutor Defendant [2011] SGHC 221 Tay Yong Kwang J Magistrate's Appeal No 104 of 2011 High Court Criminal Procedure and Sentencing—Sentencing—Disqualification order—Accused using motorcycle without valid third-party insurance—Whether existing interpr......
  • Public Prosecutor v Oliveiro Rachel Marie
    • Singapore
    • Magistrates' Court (Singapore)
    • 27 December 2018
    ...derogate from the policy behind s 3(1) of the MVA. (Emphasis added.) In Muhammad Faizal bin Rahim v Public Prosecutor [2012] 1 SLR 116; [2011] SGHC 221, the offender was convicted for using his colleague’s motorcycle without valid insurance coverage. In mitigation, the offender’s defence co......
  • Naim Bin Yusri v Public Prosecutor
    • Singapore
    • District Court (Singapore)
    • 28 July 2021
    ...on the case of Muhammad Faizal bin Rahim v PP [2011] SGHC 22. S/No Case Facts Antecedents Sentence 1 Muhammad Faizal bin Rahim v PP [2011] SGHC 221 1 x s 3(1)(a) p/u s 3(2) p/u s 3(3) MVTPRCA The accused rode on his colleague’s motorcycle. He did not know that his colleague’s motorcycle’s i......
  • Public Prosecutor v Ng Suzanne
    • Singapore
    • District Court (Singapore)
    • 10 October 2011
    ...reason must relate to the offence itself and not to the offender.” This issue was recently revisited in Muhammad Faizal Bin Rahim v PP[2011] SGHC 221. The accused had pleaded guilty to a charge of riding without the requisite insurance coverage in respect of third party risks. Another charg......

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