Public Prosecutor v Erh Zhi Huang, Alvan

CourtDistrict Court (Singapore)
JudgeSalina Bte Ishak
Judgment Date28 October 2022
Neutral Citation[2022] SGDC 251
Citation[2022] SGDC 251
Published date03 November 2022
Hearing Date11 October 2022
Docket NumberDistrict Arrest Case No 906634-2022, Magistrate’s Appeal No 9204-2022-01
Plaintiff CounselFoong Ke Hui (Attorney-General's Chambers)
Defendant CounselB. Rajendraprasad (Regent Law LLC)
Subject MatterCriminal Procedure and Sentencing,Statutory Offences,Road Traffic Act,Driving without due care and attention and causing grievous hurt
District Judge Salina Bte Ishak: Background

The accused, Mr Erh Zhi Huang, Alvan, a 30-year-old male Singapore citizen, was first charged on 8 June 2022 for the following offence:

Charge

are charged that on 30th August 2021 at or about 6.56 pm, along Pan Island Expressway towards Tuas, near to 19 km, Singapore, did drive a motor vehicle SJN214H on a road without due care and attention, to wit, by failing to keep a proper lookout when changing lanes and resulting in a collision with motorcycle, JGJ4651 which was travelling on your left, and grievous hurt was caused to one Ho Yong Siang/Male/48 years old, by such driving, you have thereby committed an offence under Section 65(1)(a) punishable under Section 65(3)(a) read with Section 65(6)(d) of the Road Traffic Act (Cap 276, 2004 Rev Ed) (“RTA”).

On 11 October 2022, the accused pleaded guilty to the charge and admitted to the Statement of Facts without any qualification. After carefully considering the Prosecution’s address on sentence and the Defence’s plea in mitigation, I sentenced the accused to ten weeks’ imprisonment and disqualified him from holding or obtaining all classes of driving licences for a period of five years with effect from the date of release.

On 11 October 2022, the accused being dissatisfied with my decision filed his Notice of Appeal against my sentence. He is presently on bail pending the hearing of his appeal.

Having set out the background for the present case, I now provide the reasons for my decision.

Salient Facts

The accused was the driver of motorcar, SJN214H, at the time of accident. The victim is Ho Yong Siang, Male Chinese, Malaysian, 48 years old. He was the rider of motorcycle, JGJ4651, at the time of accident.

On 30 August 2021 at about 6.56pm, the accused drove his motorcar along lane 1 of the three-lane Pan Island Expressway towards Tuas. The victim rode behind the accused in lane 2. There was another car travelling in front of the accused. This car braked and came to a stop due to heavy traffic in front of it. The accused then abruptly switched lanes from lane 1 to lane 2. The accused did drive without due care and attention, by failing to keep a proper lookout when changing lanes and resulting in a collision with the victim who was travelling on the accused’s left on lane 2, and grievous hurt was caused to the victim. At the time of accident, the weather was clear, the road surface was dry and the traffic flow was heavy.

As a result of the accident, the victim was sent to Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) by ambulance. He was discharged on 31 August 2021 and given hospitalisation leave from 30 August 2021 to 8 September 2021 and from 9 September 2021 to 24 September 2021. This was further extended to 19 October 2021 and thereafter to 26 October 2021. A total of 58 days of hospitalisation leave was given.

The victim sustained the following injuries: Traumatic amputation of the right little finger; and Right sided clavicle fracture. The victim had a terminalisation of the right little finger performed.

As a result of the accident, the victim’s motorcycle was damaged: Cracks, scratches and dents at the front of the motorcycle; Dangling front head lamp; Scratches on the front mudguard; Broken left handle; Dented right handle grip stopper; and Scratches on the right of the rear box.

The accused’s car was also damaged. There were dents on the left rear door and scratches on the left front door.

By virtue of the foregoing, the accused has committed an offence under Section 65(1) (a) punishable under Section 65(3)(a) and Section 65(6)(d) of the Road Traffic Act, Chapter 276.

Sentencing Prescribed Penalty

The prescribed penalty for an offence under s 65(1)(b) and punishable ss 65(3)(a) read with 65(6)(d) of the RTA is fine not exceeding $5,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 2 years or to both. In addition, the offender is liable to a mandatory disqualification order for all classes of vehicles for at least five years.

Antecedents

The accused has no prior convictions.

Prosecution’s Submissions on Sentence

The Prosecution had submitted that it was not objecting to a short detention order (''SDO'') and the minimum of at least five years' disqualification. It was the Prosecution’s position that if an SDO is imposed, the duration would be left to the Court's discretion.

In its address on sentence, the Prosecution had relied on the five-step sentencing framework for offences under s 65(3)(a) of the RTA laid down by the High Court in Sue Chang (Xu Zheng) v Public Prosecutor [2022] SGHC 176 (“Sue Chang”). The steps are as follows: First step: Identifying the level of harm and level of culpability. Second step: Identifying the applicable indicative sentencing range in the sentencing matrix. Third step: Identify the appropriate starting point within the indicative sentencing range. Fourth step: Make adjustments to the starting point to take into account offender-specific factors. Fifth step: Make adjustments for totality principle.

It was submitted that in determining the levels of harm, the High Court at [87] gave the following guidance: Low: Managed with conservative treatment, with no or short periods of hospitalisation and/or medical leave. The harm occasioned would typically involve minor fractures/dislocation at less vulnerable parts of the body. Moderate: The injuries are of a more permanent nature and/or involve more complex fractures/dislocation which necessitate some surgical procedures with a moderate period of hospitalisation and/or medical leave. Serious: The injuries are of a very serious or permanent nature and/or necessitate significant surgical procedures. The victim’s daily living is usually permanently and severely affected. This includes injuries resulting in loss of limb, sight, hearing, member or other major bodily functions or paralysis.

It was the Prosecution’s position that the level of harm was moderate to serious. The victim suffered serious damage to his right little finger which required surgical intervention of a traumatic amputation. In addition to this, the victim also suffered a right sided clavicle fracture. The victim was given a total of 58 days of hospitalization leave.

As for culpability, the Prosecution acknowledged that there were no other culpability increasing factors. The accused immediately rendered assistance to the victim at the scene of accident. It was submitted that the level of culpability ought to be low.

Applying the matrix, it was further submitted the indicative sentencing range should be from a fine and up to 8 months’ imprisonment.

As for the third step, this is to be informed by the level of harm caused by the offence and the level of the offender’s culpability ([105] of Sue Chang). It was the Prosecution’s position that the appropriate starting point would be a short custodial sentence ie the upper end of low culpability-moderate harm and lower end of low culpability-serious harm.

As for the fourth step, the Prosecution noted the following offender-specific factors: the accused possessed a completely clean driving record at the time of the offence; and he elected to plead guilty at an early opportunity.

The Prosecution had submitted that an SDO would be appropriate to address the accused's prospects for rehabilitation. It was submitted that that such a sentencing outcome would also be in line with the following precedents:

Case Facts Sentence
PP v Xavier Lai Goon Theng [2022] SGDC 76. 20 years old at time of offence. Clean driving record. s 65(1)(b) p/u s 65(3)(a) RTA The accused failed to keep a proper look out when executing a U-turn. The victim suffered a comminuted left elbow fracture with type 1 coronoid fracture, and ligament instability, left open distal radial fracture complicated by acute carpal tunnel syndrome, and dorsal branch ulnar nerve neuropraxia, left ulnar nerve neuropraxia, and right ankle closed pilon fracture. He underwent four surgeries. He was given 51 days’ medical leave. He had no permanent injuries. High Court reversed the custodial sentence imposed and substituted it with one week’s SDO and a DQ order of five years.
PP v Tan Zhi Jian Paul - SC-908265-2021 21 years old at time of offence. s 65(1)(a) p/u s 65(3)(a) RTA The accused was at the signalised junction of Jurong Canal Drive, Singapore and failed to give way to vehicle with right of way while making a right turn on traffic green light without any right turn green
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