Public Prosecutor v Wong Eng Hua

CourtMagistrates' Court (Singapore)
JudgeEric Tin Keng Seng
Judgment Date10 March 2003
Neutral Citation[2003] SGMC 5
Citation[2003] SGMC 5
Publication Date30 September 2003
Plaintiff CounselJames Ng
Defendant CounselAndrew Hanam

1 This is an appeal against sentence by Mr Wong Eng Hua (“Mr Wong”).

2 On 18 February 2003, Mr Wong pleaded guilty before me to the following charge (marked “P1”):

… you on the 07th day of January 2003 at about 5.50 p.m., at Yishun Avenue 5 junction of Sembawang Road, Singapore, which is a public place, did fight with one Mohamad Aidil Bin Adam, to wit, by fisting against each other, and disturbing the public peace, and you have thereby committed an offence of affray, punishable under Section 160 of the Penal Code, Chapter 224.

Summary of Facts

3 Mr Wong understood the nature and consequences of his plea, and admitted without qualification to the statement of facts (marked “A”). The facts revealed that on 7 January 2003, acting on message received from an anonymous male caller, the police arrested Mr Wong and a Mr Mohamad Aidil Bin Adam (“Mr Mohamad Aidil”) for an offence of affray along Yishun Avenue 5 towards the T-junction of Sembawang Road. Investigations revealed that at about 5.40 pm that day, Mr Wong was driving along Yishun Avenue 5 when Mr Mohamad Aidil cut into his lane. Both of them stopped their vehicles at the traffic junction along Yishun Avenue 5 and confronted each other. A dispute broke out between them, and they ended up punching and kicking each other. Both of them sustained injuries and were sent to Tan Tock Seng Hospital for medical attention.

4 The medical report furnished by Dr Lai Jiunn Herng (marked “B”) indicates that Mr Wong sustained mild bruises over the left parietal region while the medical report furnished by Dr Phua Mei Fang (marked “C”) indicates that Mr Mohamad Aidil sustained

(i) tenderness over left upper frontal skull;

(ii) 4 cm diameter erythema over right maxilla, and

(iii) 0.5 cm to 1 cm (x 2) abrasions over dorsum of the left hand around the 2nd and 3rd metacapophalangeal joints.

Antecedents and Mitigation

5 The prosecution informed me that Mr Wong had a clean record. In mitigation, the court interpreter informed me that Mr Wong had nothing to say. I then asked the prosecution whether they classified this as a case of “road rage”. The learned police prosecutor replied that he had no direction on this, but noted that the fight took place out of a traffic accident.

Sentence

6 After considering the authorities, I sentenced Mr Wong to 2 weeks’ imprisonment. Mr Mohamad Aidil, who also pleaded guilty before me on the same day to a similar charge, received the same sentence but he did not appeal against sentence and had served the same.

Sentencing considerations

7 In classic “road rage” cases, a deterrent custodial sentence is the norm. There are sound reasons for treating such cases differently from normal cases of causing hurt. In PP v Lee Seck Hing [1992] 2 SLR 745, a seminal decision on such cases, the learned Yong Pung How CJ reasoned thus,

Violent crimes are one of the curses of our society against which it is the primary duty of the courts to protect the public. This is especially so on a small island like Singapore, where citizens live in close proximity to each other: our daily lives are unavoidably intertwined to some extent, making the preservation of order and harmony all the more important.

…. The court must also be mindful of the need to deter anyone else who would resort with impunity to violence on the roads, especially in view of the deplorable increase in such incidents. Our roads are progressively becoming more crowded each month, as more and more cars add to the traffic, and motorists must simply learn to live with one another. There can be no place on our roads for road bullies. Such persons must be made aware of the severe detestation the law expresses in regard to such crimes. They must not be allowed to go away thinking that they can beat up somebody else on the slightest provocation for the price of a few thousand dollars….

8 Lee Seck Hing (supra) was a decision shortly after Ong Hwee Leong v PP [1992] 1 SLR 794 in which the learned Yong Pung How CJ noted that,

… minor incidents occur on our roads many times every day. No doubt they are frustrating to those involved. But if, many times every day on our public roads, everyone were to lose his temper and react to the degree the appellant did, all semblance of order would quickly dissipate and only the most violent would prevail. The perceptible trend in this direction deservedly incurs the courts’ displeasure and must be determinedly discouraged. Drivers must refrain from alighting from their vehicles and assaulting others simply because those others have annoyed them by their driving or in some other way. I therefore adopt unreservedly Lord Land CJ’s view in Hassan & Schuller that prison sentences ought to follow this sort of incident.

9 The case which the learned Chief Justice referred to in Ong Hwee Leong (supra) was the English...

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