Teo Seng Tiong v Public Prosecutor

JurisdictionSingapore
CourtCourt of Three Judges (Singapore)
JudgeSteven Chong JCA,Tay Yong Kwang JCA,Sundaresh Menon CJ,Judith Prakash JCA,Andrew Phang Boon Leong JCA
Judgment Date01 July 2021
Neutral Citation[2021] SGCA 65
Citation[2021] SGCA 65
Subject MatterCompounding of offences,Criminal Procedure And Sentencing,Criminal references
Plaintiff CounselTan Hee Joek (Tan See Swan & Co)
Hearing Date04 March 2021
Defendant CounselChua Ying-Hong and Zhou Yang (Attorney-General's Chambers)
Docket NumberCriminal Reference No 2 of 2020
Published date06 July 2021
Tay Yong Kwang JCA (delivering the judgment of the court): Introduction

In the morning of 22 December 2018, a Saturday, Mr Teo Seng Tiong (the “Applicant”), then 57 years old, was driving his lorry along the left lane of Pasir Ris Drive 3, a two-lane road. Two friends were cycling side by side along the left lane of that road, in the same direction as and ahead of the lorry. The cyclist who was cycling in the middle of the left lane was Mr Cheung Eric Hoyu (“Eric”), then 35 years old, a national of the United Kingdom. The other cyclist was closer to the road kerb.

The Applicant attempted to overtake the cyclists but was unsuccessful because there were vehicles on the right lane and Eric’s bicycle was in the middle of the left lane. The cyclists stopped at a traffic lights-controlled junction. The applicant’s lorry stopped behind them but moved forward incrementally until it was very close to Eric’s bicycle, making Eric very uncomfortable as he was aware of the lorry’s movements.

When the traffic lights turned green, the cyclists and the lorry moved on. The Applicant tried to overtake the cyclists again by moving into the right lane of the road. A taxi driver on the right lane applied his brakes and sounded his horn at the lorry. Eric eventually relented and moved his bicycle closer to the road kerb to allow the lorry to overtake him. However, when the lorry was alongside Eric, he reached out and struck the lorry’s left side-view mirror, causing part of it to break off.

In retaliation, the Applicant swerved the lorry sharply to the left into the path of Eric’s bicycle and the lorry came into contact with Eric’s body, causing him to fall onto the grass verge on the left side of the road. Eric suffered some injuries at his left elbow and left knee. There was also damage to the bicycle. The Applicant stopped the lorry, got down and scolded Eric for damaging the lorry’s side-view mirror. He also claimed that he had called the police and he pointed his mobile phone at Eric, telling him that he was recording a video. Eric snatched the mobile phone away but returned it to the Applicant later. The Applicant then got back into the lorry and drove away without exchanging particulars with Eric.

The police contacted the Applicant and advised him to make a police report. At 4.41pm on 24 December 2018, the Applicant lodged a police report. This was more than 24 hours after the incident.

The Applicant was charged subsequently. He claimed trial to the following two charges:

First Charge

You…are charged that you, on 22 December 2018 at about 11.57 am, along Pasir Ris Drive 3 towards New Loyang Link near Lamp-post 80, Singapore, driving motor lorry GBD4011Y, did cause hurt to a pedal cyclist Cheung Eric Hoyu, male aged 35 years old, by doing an act so rashly as to endanger human life, to wit, by suddenly swerving the motor lorry to your left and colliding into the said cyclist, causing him to fall off his bicycle and onto a grass verge on the left side of the road, and you have therefore committed an offence punishable under Section 337(a) of the Penal Code, Chapter 224.

Second Charge

You…are charged that you, being the driver of the motor lorry GBD4011Y, where an accident owing to the presence of that motor lorry occurred on 22 December 2018 at about 11.53 am along Pasir Ris Drive 3 towards New Loyang Link near Lamp-post 80, Singapore, which accident resulted in injury to a pedal cyclist, Cheung Eric Hoyu, male aged 35 years old, failed to report the accident at a police station or to a police officer within 24 hours after the accident, and you have thereby committed an offence under section 84(2) read with section 84(7) and punishable under section 131(2) of the Road Traffic Act, Chapter 276.

At the trial, the District Judge (“DJ”) found that the Applicant had veered sharply into the path of the cyclist deliberately, with the intention of running him off the road (the DJ’s grounds of decision (“DJ’s GD”) at [44]). He was thus found to have driven rashly in a manner that endangered the life of the cyclist. The DJ rejected the Applicant’s reasons for driving away from the accident scene without exchanging particulars with the cyclist or without waiting for the arrival of the police. There was no valid reason for not reporting the accident within 24 hours. The Applicant was therefore found guilty on both charges.

On the first charge, the DJ sentenced the Applicant to seven weeks’ imprisonment and disqualified him from holding or obtaining all classes of driving licence for two years (“the DQ Order”) with effect from the date of his release from prison. On the second charge, the DJ imposed a fine of $500, in default three days’ imprisonment. The Applicant was granted bail pending his appeal against conviction and sentence. The fine and the DQ Order were also stayed.

In sentencing, the DJ took into account the Applicant’s poor driving record, as was evident from [62] of the DJ’s GD:

The prosecution also highlighted the accused’s poor driving record. The accused’s conduct was in keeping with his antecedent record. Apart from numerous parking-related offences, the accused was traced for two counts of careless driving, one count of failing to give way to an approaching vehicle, one count of speeding (exceeding the limit by 31 to 40kph) and one count of beating a red light. I was of the view that the accused’s bad driving record was entirely consistent with the accused’s aggressive and dangerous driving in this case. Considering the number and nature of his prior traffic violations, I agreed that a sufficiently lengthy period of disqualification was justified to underscore the seriousness of the present offence and to specifically deter the accused from future dangerous driving.

The Applicant’s antecedents record was placed before the DJ. In particular, it included the following offences which had been compounded: Numerous parking-related offences ranging from 1998 to 2010. One count of failing to give way to approaching vehicle (on 3 May 1999). One count of stopping a vehicle on the shoulder of an expressway (on 12 May 1999). One count of speeding by exceeding the maximum speed limit of his vehicle (on 19 October 2000). One count of careless driving (on 6 February 2002). One count of failing to conform to red light signal (on 15 July 2006). One count of failing to wear a seat belt (on 23 October 2014). One count of careless driving (on 15 September 2015).

The Applicant also had previous convictions for offences which were not related to driving. These included a conviction for an offence of affray in 1999 for which he was imprisoned for one month and for an offence of voluntarily causing hurt in 2012 for which he was fined.

The Applicant appealed to the High Court against the present conviction and sentence. On 20 July 2020, Chan Seng Onn J dismissed his appeal with the following brief oral grounds:

Having seen the video and heard the appellant’s submissions and that of the DPP, I am of the opinion that the District Judge has not made any findings of fact that were against the weight of the evidence. I agree wholly with the DPP’s submissions. Both charges are aptly made out. And then in regard to the just sentence of this case, I will dismiss the appeal, both against conviction and sentence. The sentence is not manifestly excessive given the fact that this is not only rash, but an intentional act on the part of the appellant when he swerved his lorry to hit the bicycle---bicyclist causing the bicyclist to fall off and fall on to the pavement. And it was a very dangerous act, having viewed the video, and I will therefore, uphold the period of disqualification.

That’s all. And in so, sentence is to begin immediately.

As the Applicant did not apply for deferment of sentence, he commenced serving the seven weeks’ imprisonment imposed for the first charge. He was released from prison on 24 August 2020 and the DQ Order for 2 years therefore took effect from that date.

On 2 September 2020, the Applicant applied in Criminal Motion No 25 of 2020 (the “CM”) for an extension of time to apply for leave to bring a question of law of public interest to this court pursuant to s 397(3) of the Criminal Procedure Code (Cap 68, 2012 Rev Ed) (“CPC”) and for such leave to be granted. The question posed in the CM was as follows (the “Question”):

Whether a Court may take into account any offence that has been compounded under the Road Traffic Act as an aggravating factor to determine the appropriate sentence for an offence committed by a person under the Road Traffic Act; and for an offence committed by a person not under the Road Traffic Act

without legislative intervention?

The Prosecution indicated by its letter dated 5 October 2020 that it consented to the reliefs sought in the CM and to the CM being dealt with on paper without an oral hearing. Accordingly, on 8 October 2020, a three-Judge Court of Appeal granted the CM by consent of the parties. Subsequently, the present five-judge Court of Appeal was convened to hear oral arguments on the Question. After hearing the parties on 4 March 2021, we reserved judgment.

Eric (the cyclist) was dealt with in separate proceedings. On 12 April 2019, he pleaded guilty to one charge under r 29 of the Road Traffic Rules (R 20, 1999 Rev Ed) for riding his bicycle in the middle of the left lane of Pasir Ris Drive 3 instead of keeping to the far left edge of the road and one charge under s 426 of the Penal Code (Cap 224, 2008 Rev Ed) (“the Penal Code”) for committing mischief by using his right hand to strike the left side-view mirror of the Applicant’s lorry, thereby breaking off portions of the mirror and causing damage amounting to $15. Eric was fined $800 and $2000 respectively for these two charges.

The circumstances leading to the Question

The Question arose for two reasons. First, there appear to be...

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2 cases
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    • Singapore
    • Magistrates' Court (Singapore)
    • 16 September 2021
    ...P9, Dr Park’s report of 18 July 2019 66 Exhibit P9, and NE Day 4, page 9 67 Submissions by prosecution made prior to Teo Seng Tiong v PP [2021] SGCA 65 68 PP v Ong Heng Chua [2018] SHC 95 (“Ong Heng Chua”), PP v Ramalingam Velayatham [2018] SGM 11(“Ramalingam”), PP v Eric Gan Chye Hoe [2019......
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    ...Vehicles, Wearing of Seat Belts) Rules 2011. These TIC charges are relevant for the purposes of sentencing – see Teo Seng Tiong v PP [2021] SGCA 65 at [95]. Accordingly, for the s 64(1) RTA offence (2nd charge) which carries a fine of up to $5,000, I imposed a fine on the higher end of the ......

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