Public Prosecutor v Lim Chai Heng

JudgeVincent Hoong JC
Judgment Date25 November 2019
Neutral Citation[2019] SGHC 272
Plaintiff CounselKumaresan Gohulabalan and Andre Chong (Attorney-General's Chambers)
Docket NumberCriminal Case No 45 of 2018
Date25 November 2019
Hearing Date14 October 2019
Subject MatterCriminal Procedure and Sentencing,Sentencing,Mentally disordered offenders
Published date27 November 2019
Defendant CounselYusfiyanto bin Yatiman and Chee Fei Josephine (Rajah & Tann Singapore LLP)
CourtHigh Court (Singapore)
Citation[2019] SGHC 272
Vincent Hoong JC: Introduction

It is often said that criminal sentencing is a highly fact-sensitive exercise, and that judges ought to exercise their sound discretion in determining the appropriate sentence which achieves fairness in the circumstances of the case. How do such principles apply when a court is faced with the task of sentencing an accused person who was ailing under a previously undiagnosed mental condition, which significantly affected his ability to appreciate the serious harm that his rash act would cause? Where do the scales of justice lie in such a case?

In this judgment, I set out my reasons for sentencing the accused person to an imprisonment term of one year for having driven against the flow of traffic while afflicted by acute psychosis, which caused the tragic death of an innocent road-user and serious injury to four others.


The facts of this case are perplexing and troubling.

The accused person far exceeded his intended destination, driving into the motorcycle lane of Tuas Checkpoint

The accused person is 56 years old and the sole proprietor of a small business in the colour printing industry. On a fateful Monday in December 2016 at about 7.25am, the accused person and his son left their residence at Hougang and boarded the accused person’s car. It was his son’s first day of work, and the accused person intended to send him to his workplace at the Central Manpower Base, Depot Road.1

The accused person drove along the Central Expressway (“CTE”) towards the Ayer Rajah Expressway (“AYE”). After he had passed Exit 10 (Braddell Road), his son asked him why he did not exit the CTE, as he could avoid having to incur the Electronic Road Pricing (“ERP”) charges. He replied, “[d]o not be afraid, I know the way.” He thus continued driving on the CTE at a speed of approximately 80 to 90 km/h, and abided by the road traffic rules.2

Having failed to exit at the Braddell Road exit, he was then supposed to exit the CTE at Exit 1A (Jalan Bukit Merah), being the exit closest to his intended destination at Depot Road. However, he did not do so. Instead, he continued onto the AYE, where he started to increase his driving speed to approximately 100 km/h, making lane changes in the process so as to maintain his speed amidst moderate traffic. He deliberately slowed his car as he approached and passed a fixed speed camera located somewhere after Exit 8 (North Buona Vista Road) of the AYE.3

At various points along the way, his son asked him to exit the AYE, but he refused, alleging that his son did not trust him. He did not take the subsequent 14 exits on the AYE, and reached the end of the AYE at Tuas Checkpoint after travelling approximately 23km on the AYE.4 By this point, he had far exceeded his intended destination.

Upon arriving at Tuas Checkpoint, at about 7.57am, he drove into the motorcycle lane, despite knowing that it was against road traffic rules. He continued until the lane became too narrow for his car to pass through.5 It was at this point that the accused person stopped the car, carefully made a three-point turn, and began driving back against the flow of traffic on the motorcycle lane.

The accused person drove against the flow of traffic

The accused person knew that driving against the flow of traffic was a road traffic offence, and was subjectively advertent to the risk that his act of driving against the flow of traffic would endanger human life or the personal safety of others. Despite that, he continued driving at a speed of 37 to 41 km/h, while oncoming motorcycles had to stop upon seeing his car approaching them.6 Up to this point, fortunately, no one was injured.

He eventually reached the barrier gap, which separated the car lane from the motorcycle lane. He then merged back into the car lane, and continued driving against the flow of traffic on the Tuas Checkpoint Departure Viaduct (“Viaduct”), leading to the AYE. At this point, his car was on lane 2 of the two-lane Viaduct, and two oncoming vehicles had to filter to lane 1 to avoid him. While on the Viaduct, he depressed his brakes once in response to oncoming traffic, and continued driving against the flow of traffic on lane 2. Just prior to exiting the Viaduct, his car had accelerated to a speed of approximately 85 km/h.7 No one was injured at this point.

The collisions

The accused person then exited the Viaduct and entered the AYE. Still driving against the flow of traffic, he accelerated to a speed of 126 to 147 km/h. By this time, the accused person was on lane 1, the fastest lane on the expressway.8

At about 8.01am, the accused person approached the vehicle driven by one Tan Han Boon (“V1”). The vehicle in front of V1 swerved left to avoid the accused person’s car. Upon seeing the accused person’s car, V1 also swerved left towards lane 2 to avoid a collision, but collided instead with a bus that was already in lane 2. V1’s car spun across the front of the bus, and hit the concrete wall next to lane 3 of the AYE.9

The deceased person was driving on lane 1 of the AYE directly behind V1’s car. The deceased person’s wife, V2, was in the front passenger seat of his car. After narrowly avoiding V1’s car, the accused person’s car collided head on with the deceased person’s car at a speed of between 137 to 139 km/h. As a result of the impact, the deceased person’s car veered from lane 1 to lane 3, tilted to a vertical position, and then slammed against the concrete wall.10

The impact also caused the accused person’s car to veer from lane 1 to lane 3, and collide head on with the motor scooter ridden by one Teh Tze Yong (“V3”). The force of the impact flung V3 and his wife, Choo Yat Chiam (“V4”), who was riding pillion at the time, from the scooter. The accused person’s car continued veering until it collided with the concrete wall, when it finally came to a halt.11

The accused person had travelled against the flow of traffic from the Tuas Checkpoint to the point of the collisions for a total distance of approximately 1.8km. At the time of the accident, the traffic was moderate, visibility was good, and the road surface was dry.12

Injuries caused

The deceased person was pronounced dead at the scene. The cause of death was multiple injuries that he had sustained in the collision.13

The other victims, V1 to V4, suffered the following injuries: V1 (the driver of the first car who had narrowly avoided the accused person’s car) suffered bilateral forearm superficial linear abrasions, as well as a 4x3cm oval abrasion on the volar aspect of the left forearm. He was discharged with three days’ medical leave;14 V2 (the deceased person’s wife) suffered swelling over her face, bruising over her right wrist, left knee and abdomen. She also suffered bilateral mandibular (jawbone) fractures, a right second rib fracture with a right lung contusion (bruising of the lung) and inflammation on her right-sided large intestine. She underwent surgery for her jawbone fractures. Four days after the accident, she was having flashbacks and stress reactions to the accident. She was discharged and given one month of medical leave;15 V3 (the rider of the motor scooter) suffered multiple fractures, namely, a left elbow Gustillo 3A open fracture, a closed left and right distal radius fracture, and an open comminuted right middle finger middle phalanx fracture. V3 also underwent a right ring finger middle phalanx amputation and suffered an upper lip laceration. He underwent surgeries twice, and was discharged about ten days later;16 and V4 (the pillion of the motor scooter) suffered a left closed proximal femur shaft fracture, a left open patella fracture and a left acromioclavicular joint sprain. She underwent surgery and was discharged about a week later.17

Property damage

The accused person’s actions also caused property damage:18 Cost of repairing the bus that collided with V1’s car: S$27,737.82; V1’s car was scrapped as it was beyond repair. Its market value: S$110,000; The deceased person’s car was not subjected to professional inspection and it was scrapped; V3’s scooter was scrapped as it was beyond repair. Its market value: RM9,900 (approximately S$3,268); and Cost of repair of wall cladding on the AYE: S$1,304.06.


For driving against the flow of traffic and causing a fatal accident, the accused person was charged under s 304A(a) of the Penal Code (Cap 224, 2008 Rev Ed) (“PC”) for doing a rash act not amounting to culpable homicide. The Prosecution proceeded with this sole charge (“the offence”).

Four other charges relating to the hurt or grievous hurt caused by the accused person’s rash act which endangered the life or the personal safety of V1 to V4 (under ss 337(a) and 338(a) of the PC) were taken into consideration for the purposes of sentencing.19

The reports Vehicle mechanical report

There was no mechanical defect on the accused person’s car that could have led to or contributed to the accident.20

IMH reports

The accused person was examined by Dr Jerome Goh Hern Yee (“Dr Goh”), a Senior Consultant and Chief of the Department of General and Forensic Psychiatry at the Institute of Mental Health (“IMH”) on four different occasions in January 2017. Dr Goh also interviewed the accused person’s wife and children, as well as his former employee, Mdm Teo.21

First IMH report

Pursuant to his assessment, Dr Goh prepared three psychiatric reports on the accused person’s mental condition at the time of the offence. In his first report, Dr Goh observed that the accused person had no prior contact with a psychiatrist prior to the offence. He also denied having marital problems, but reported recent conflict with his wife over his business, which was not doing well.22

As the accused person’s business had been faring poorly for years, he had borrowed money from his family members and banks, and was considering various options to divest...

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6 cases
  • Public Prosecutor v Ibrahim bin Bajuri
    • Singapore
    • District Court (Singapore)
    • 13 April 2020
    ...of using the 2-step sentencing bands framework as a starting point for sentencing, the High Court in Public Prosecutor v Lim Chai Heng [2019] SGHC 27233 stated that the starting inquiry in sentencing offenders with a mental disorder ought to be whether the deterrent, retributive and protect......
  • Public Prosecutor v Rozilawaty binte Eddy Rosmanah
    • Singapore
    • District Court (Singapore)
    • 3 April 2020
    ...of using the 2-step sentencing bands framework as a starting point for sentencing, the High Court in Public Prosecutor v Lim Chai Heng [2019] SGHC 27242 stated that the starting inquiry in sentencing offenders with a mental disorder ought to be whether the deterrent, retributive and protect......
  • Public Prosecutor v Abdul Rahman Bin A Karim
    • Singapore
    • District Court (Singapore)
    • 21 April 2021
    ...of using the 2-step sentencing bands framework as a starting point for sentencing, the High Court in Public Prosecutor v Lim Chai Heng [2019] SGHC 272 stated that the starting inquiry in sentencing offenders with a mental disorder ought to be whether the deterrent, retributive and protectiv......
  • Public Prosecutor v Sy Yong Da
    • Singapore
    • District Court (Singapore)
    • 30 August 2021
    ...framework above, the Defence tendered a table of reported decisions under s 304A(a) of the PC. The cases cited were: PP v Lim Chai Heng [2020] 3 SLR 1275 (“Lim Chai Heng”) PP v Tan Peng Liat, Mark [2018] SGDC 43 (“Mark Tan”) PP v Kwok Kah Kuoy [2018] SGDC 73 (“Kwok Kah Kuoy”) PP v Tibrewal ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 books & journal articles
  • Criminal Procedure, Evidence and Sentencing
    • Singapore
    • Singapore Academy of Law Annual Review No. 2019, December 2019
    • 1 December 2019
    ...Ming Michael [2019] 5 SLR 926 at [72]. 104 Public Prosecutor v Tan Kok Ming Michael [2019] 5 SLR 926 at [92]. 105 [2017] 5 SLR 681. 106 [2020] 3 SLR 1275. 107 Public Prosecutor v Lim Chai Heng [2020] 3 SLR 1275 at [52]. 108 [2018] 2 SLR 295. 109 Public Prosecutor v Lim Chai Heng [2020] 3 SL......

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