Public Prosecutor v Poh Teck Huat

JudgeYong Pung How CJ
Judgment Date09 April 2003
Neutral Citation[2003] SGHC 82
Docket NumberMagistrate's Appeal No 12 of 2003
Date09 April 2003
Published date01 October 2003
Plaintiff CounselHui Choon Kuen (Deputy Public Prosecutor)
Citation[2003] SGHC 82
Defendant CounselEdmond Pereira (Edmond Pereira & Partners),Benjamin Choo (Edmond Pereira & Partners)
CourtHigh Court (Singapore)
Subject MatterSentence to be imposed in case of causing death by rash driving,Sentencing,Benchmark sentences,Criminal Procedure and Sentencing

1 The respondent was charged in the subordinate courts on the following charge:

You, Poh Teck Huat, M/23 years, NRIC No: S7926687F are charged that you, on the 5th day of April 2002 at about 7.45 am, along the junction of Loyang Lane and Loyang Drive, Singapore, being the driver of motor car SBZ 6536X, did cause the death of a motor cyclist Goh Koon Jee, male 45, by doing a rash act not amounting to culpable homicide, to wit by failing to stop your vehicle at the stop line and driving your car into the middle intersection and colliding into a motorcycle FR 1231 C that was travelling on your left along the major road of Loyang Drive and in doing so, resulted in the death of the rider, Goh Koon Jee, male 45 years and you have thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 304A of the Penal Code, Chapter 224.

2 He pleaded guilty to the charge and was sentenced to a fine of $8,000 and disqualified from driving all classes of vehicles for five years. The Public Prosecutor appealed against the sentence imposed. I heard the appeal on 1 April 2003 and I allowed the appeal. I now give my reasons.


3 This case involved a collision between a motor car and a motor cycle after the motor car driver failed to comply with a stop-line. The respondent, Poh Teck Huat (“Poh”), had just started work at Loyang Industrial Estate on 1 April 2002. On 5 April 2002, he was on his way to work at about 7.45am. He was driving his motor-car along Loyang Lane and was looking for a parking lot. There was light traffic flow, visibility was clear and the road surface was dry.

4 At the junction of Loyang Lane and Loyang Drive, Poh failed to stop at the stop line, but merely slowed down. He saw no traffic and continued to cross the junction. At the middle of the intersection, he suddenly saw a motor cycle coming from his left and he collided with it when he could not stop his car in time.

5 After the accident, Poh immediately stopped his car and called for an ambulance before proceeding to help the motor cyclist, Goh Koon Jee (“Goh”), a 45 year old man. Goh was conscious and able to walk. Poh spoke to him and Goh told him that his chest hurt and his ribs felt painful. Poh then helped Goh to the side of the road where he and a passer-by helped to clean up Goh. Shortly after, the ambulance arrived and Goh was taken to the hospital. He was diagnosed as having multiple abrasions and three fractured ribs. He passed away two days later. The certified cause of death was ‘multiple injuries’ consistent with those sustained as a result of a road traffic accident.

6 The vehicles were subsequently sent for inspection and it was found that the front bonnet and left lower bumper of Poh’s car were dented and both signal lights broken, while the right handle, the right fork and the left side of the oil tank of Goh’s motorcycle were dented.

Decision of the trial judge

7 The trial judge, before passing sentence, rejected the prosecutor’s application to amend the statement of claim to specify that Poh did not slow down his car. The trial judge stated that this was, first, not essential to support the charge of rash driving and, secondly, it would be unfair to Poh to allow the prosecution to adduce potentially aggravating facts, after his plea of guilt, merely to counter Poh’s mitigation when the mitigation did not qualify his plea of guilt.

8 In passing sentence, the trial judge examined the two cases of Sim Chong Eng v PP (MA 119/93) and Tay Kok Soon v PP (MA 245/97). He held that these two cases were pertinent because they both involved drivers who had failed to stop their vehicles before moving onto a major road. After examining these two cases, the trial judge was of the opinion that Poh’s degree of rashness and culpability appeared to correspond more closely to that of the accused in Sim Chong Eng v PP who was sentenced to a fine of $6,000 and disqualified from driving all classes of vehicles for five years.

9 The trial judge stated that the degree of rashness fell short of gross recklessness which would warrant a custodial sentence of some length. This was because there was no evidence that the respondent had been speeding. The trial judge further took into consideration that there were other strong mitigating factors such as Poh’s prompt response to the accident, by acting immediately to render assistance. Poh had also pleaded guilty unreservedly at the earliest opportunity, had no antecedents and had a clean driving record.

10 The trial judge accepted that Poh’s view of the traffic approaching from his left was poor as there was a bend in Loyang Drive which meant that a driver travelling along Loyang Lane would have to move far forward into Loyang Drive itself in order to have a clearer view of any oncoming traffic from the left. In addition, the trial judge noted that Poh was unfamiliar with the area and he was of the view that these external factors may have contributed to the accident.

11 As such, the trial judge was of the view that there were no serious aggravating factors to warrant a custodial sentence and he sentenced Goh to a fine of $8,000, in default eight weeks’ imprisonment, and disqualified him from driving all classes of vehicles for five years.

The appeal

12 The only issue in this appeal pertained to the sentence imposed. This was a s 304A of the Penal Code (Cap 224) case. For convenience, I have set out the provision below:

304A. Whoever causes the death of any person by doing any rash or negligent act not amounting to culpable homicide, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 2 years, or with fine, or with both.

13 The starting point in dealing with this appeal must be to look at PP v Gan Lim Soon [1993] 3 SLR 216 in which I had stated that:

If death has been caused by a rash act the proper punishment would be imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years. If death has been caused instead by a negligent act, it would be sufficient in most cases to inflict a fine on the accused.

14 I would take this opportunity to clarify that Gan Lim Soon does not mean that a custodial sentence is mandated every time a human life is lost as a result of a rash act. A simple examination of...

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31 cases
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6 books & journal articles
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    • Singapore Academy of Law Journal No. 2007, December 2007
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