Public Prosecutor v Rozilawaty binte Eddy Rosmanah

JurisdictionSingapore
CourtDistrict Court (Singapore)
JudgeShawn Ho
Judgment Date03 April 2020
Neutral Citation[2020] SGDC 76
Citation[2020] SGDC 76
Docket NumberDAC 901359 of 2020 & Ors
Published date16 April 2020
Plaintiff CounselDeputy Public Prosecutor Amanda Sum Yun Qian
Defendant CounselAccused in Person.
Hearing Date13 March 2020
District Judge Shawn Ho: INTRODUCTION

A Yamaha motorcycle goes missing. And its owner makes a police report. Police cameras then identify the culprit, and she is arrested.1

The Accused pleaded guilty to 2 charges: Committing theft of a motorcycle under s 379A of the Penal Code (Cap 224, 2008 Rev Ed),2 and Using a motorcycle without third-party motor insurance under s 3(1) of the Motor Vehicles (Third-Party Risks and Compensation) Act (Cap 189, 2000 Rev Ed) (“the Act”).3

The s 379A charge is the graver of the two charges, with imprisonment that may extend to 7 years and a mandatory driving disqualification. The severity of s 379A is underscored by the fact that before the Penal Code amendments in 2008, it had a mandatory minimum sentence of one year’s imprisonment and a mandatory minimum driving disqualification of 3 years.

By way of background, it is unlawful to use a motor vehicle in Singapore without third-party motor insurance: s 3(1) of the Act. The Act’s primary object is to ensure compensation for the bodily injury or death of third parties arising from vehicular use on the road.4 Third-party motor insurance is of first importance. The gravity of s 3 of the Act is underlined by the mandatory imprisonment for such offences in England in the past: Wilkinson’s Road Traffic Offences (Thomson Reuters, 28th Ed, 2017) at [21-11].

Under both s 3(1) of the Act and s 379A of the Penal Code, an offender would be disqualified from driving unless he shows “special reasons”.

This judgment is based on the following framework: What is the legislative intent of the statutory provisions? (see [12] to [30] below) What are the special reasons for not imposing a driving disqualification? (see [32] to [43] below) What are the sentencing considerations in the present case? (see [44] to [98] below)

All things considered, the Accused was jailed for 4 months, fined $5005 and disqualified from driving for 12 months.6

In the final analysis, I found no special reason to dispense with the driving disqualification, which is mandatory as well as appropriate in the present case.7 The Statement of Facts can be found at Annex A. My grounds of decision are summarised below at [99].

No appeal has been lodged. I now set out my reasons.

FRAMEWORK

This judgment can be crystallised under the following framework:

We turn first to examining the legislative intent of the statutory provisions.

A. Tracing the Formative Arc of s 379A of the Penal Code (i) Historical Background

Section 379A of the Penal Code used to have a mandatory minimum sentence of one year’s imprisonment and a mandatory minimum driving disqualification of 3 years. This is reflected in the following graphs on the Sentencing Information and Research Repository (SIR) based on the Penal Code (Cap 224, 1985 Rev Ed):

However, both of these mandatory minimum sentences have been removed. At the second reading of the Penal Code (Amendment) Bill, the Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs, Associate Professor Ho Peng Kee, said [Singapore Parliamentary Debates, Official Report (22 October 2007) vol. 83]:

In particular, we sought to reduce the number of offences carrying mandatory minimum punishment and the gap in imprisonment terms for double-limb penalties.

Review of mandatory minimum penalties

Sir, we will remove mandatory minimum imprisonment terms for four offences. These are sections 379A … In addition, we are removing the mandatory minimum disqualification for section 379A relating to theft of motor vehicle or component part. (emphasis added)

(ii) Policy behind s 379A

The prescribed punishment for s 379A of the Penal Code is imprisonment which may extend to 7 years and the offender shall also be liable to be fined. Both the imprisonment term and driving disqualification order are mandatory.

As s 379A entails mandatory disqualification, if an offender is convicted of several counts of that offence, the court has to impose a separate term of disqualification for each conviction: Public Prosecutor v Mohammad Rohaizad bin Rosni [1998] 3 SLR(R) 180 at [6], [10] and [11].

The driving disqualification order takes effect from the date of the offender’s release from imprisonment: s 379A(2) of the Penal Code and Public Prosecutor v Abdul Hameed s/o Abdul Rahman and Another [1997] SGHC 136 at [25]-[28], which was affirmed in Public Prosecutor v Mohammad Rohaizad bin Rosni [1998] SGHC 278 at [12]-[15].

This is in line with the legislative purpose of s 379A, which is to provide for heavier penalties against theft of motor vehicles: 44 Parliamentary Debates col 1862, 1869, 1878 (1984). The driving disqualification would have to run after the imprisonment period to ensure that the disqualification achieves maximum effect, viz. that the disqualification is not rendered ineffective because it ceases before the offender is released from imprisonment.8

In this regard, the English cases on this issue are inapplicable as they are based on a completely different legislative intent: Public Prosecutor v Mohammad Rohaizad bin Rosni [1998] SGHC 278 at [15].9

Based on the wording of s 379A(2) and Parliament’s intention when enacting this section, multiple disqualification terms imposed could only be concurrent.10 This is because each period of disqualification, regardless of the number and duration of these periods, had to start from the date of the offender’s release from imprisonment.11

Next, I turn to examine the legislative intent of s 3(1) of the Motor Vehicles (Third-Party Risks and Compensation) Act.

B. Legislative Intent behind Motor Vehicles (Third-Party Risks and Compensation) Act (i) Preamble

The Act’s preamble states that it was enacted to “provide against third-party risks arising out of the use of motor vehicles and for the payment of compensation in respect of death or bodily injury arising out of the use of motor vehicles and for matters incidental thereto”.

(ii) Historical Background

At the second reading of the Motor Vehicles (Third-Party Risks and Compensation) Bill, the Minister for Labour and Law, Mr K.M. Byrne, said [Singapore Parliamentary Debates, Official Report (13 January 1960) vol. 12 at col 16]:

This Bill re-enacts the provisions of Part II of the Road Traffic Ordinance …

By way of historical background, Part II of the Road Traffic Ordinance contained the provisions found in Part II of the Road Traffic Ordinance of the Straits Settlements 1941 (“1941 Ordinance”). Part II of the 1941 Ordinance dealt with compulsory third-party liability insurance connected with the use of motor vehicles. The 1941 Ordinance repealed the Straits Settlements Road Traffic (Third-Party Insurance) Ordinance 1938 and reproduced the provisions of the 1938 Ordinance in Part II of the 1941 Ordinance. It was the 1938 Ordinance which first introduced the principle of compulsory third-party insurance to the Straits Settlements, based on the United Kingdom model.12

(iii) Policy behind Section 3

Having briefly outlined the Act’s genesis, what is the policy behind the interpretation of section 3 of the Act?

At its core, section 3 seeks to achieve the dual aims of ensuring that victims of traffic accidents are not left without any compensation, and also to deter irresponsible motorists from driving without the appropriate insurance coverage: Er Kee Jeng v Public Prosecutor [2006] 2 SLR(R) 485 at [39]. Bringing this to sharper focus is the fact that Parliament has deemed it fit to make the offence one of strict liability with only a limited defence in section 3(4):13Muhammad Faizal bin Rahim v Public Prosecutor [2012] 1 SLR 116 (“Muhammad Faizal bin Rahim”) at [39].

The Act’s raison d'etre is to protect third-party road users, not the insured driver: Public Prosecutor v Lee Hong Hwee [2004] 1 SLR(R) 39 at [31]. In other words, s 3(1) seeks to ensure that compensation would be available to persons involved in accidents on the road. For that reason, contravening s 3(1) is a serious offence: Stewart Ashley James v Public Prosecutor [1996] 3 SLR(R) 106 at [17].

The gravity of the offence finds expression in the mandatory 12-month disqualification order and a possible custodial sentence that avail the judge in sentencing the offender: Muhammad Faizal bin Rahim at [40].

I pause to observe that the severity of section 3 of the Act is underscored by the mandatory imprisonment for such offences in England in the past: Wilkinson’s Road Traffic Offences14 (Thomson Reuters, 28th Ed, 2017) at [21-11]:

“Prior to 1965, disqualification or, at one time, imprisonment was obligatory for using a motor vehicle without insurance, or causing or permitting such use” (emphasis added).

Deterrence is the policy underpinning the mandatory 12-month disqualification order: Muhammad Faizal bin Rahim at [40]. This is because a 12-month disqualification order would mean that for the entire year in which the order is in effect, the offender is reminded every day of his offence and the unwarranted risks in which he had placed ordinary members of the public: Sivakumar s/o Rajoo v Public Prosecutor [2002] 1 SLR(R) 265 at [28]. As stated in Public Prosecutor v Mohd Isa [1963] MLJ 135, the “most satisfactory penalty for most motoring offences is disqualification” because a fine is paid once and then forgotten.15

In sum, it would be repugnant to the Act’s legislative intention if motorists do not face the criminal consequences of driving without appropriate insurance coverage: Saimonn Teo Rong Zhi v Public Prosecutor [2013] SGHC 185 at [27].

I turn now to the law on special reasons with regard to imposing a disqualification order.

C. Special Reasons for Driving Disqualification: Two-Stage Framework

Under both s 3(1) of the Act and s 379A of the Penal Code, an offender would be disqualified from driving unless he shows “special reasons”.

In this connection, the two-stage framework...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT