Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Killer On The Road Receives Slap On The Wrist

I’ve written many times before about the strict laws in Singapore and how and when the tough sentences can and have been handed out.

In one of my previous articles, I discussed the death sentences faced by four Singaporeans and one Malaysian after a $1.3M drug bust - and went on to outline the varying sentences meted out to those in possession of drugs and those who are caught importing illegal substances (according to the Central Narcotics Bureau). Please note, I did not once criticize the laws, rather reported them as they stand – the effectiveness is evidenced in the very, very small percentage of people destroying theirs (and others) lives through drug abuse in Singapore.

Another article was in relation to what seemed to me to be very light sentences meted out to two offenders – the drug addict child rapist and the corrupt Teh Gim Leng.

I have also been critical at times of the lenient laws in Australia in relation to other severe crimes (eg. child pornography and molestation) and in comparison to Singapore law.

The latest incident involving Lim Hong Eng (56-year old editor of the ‘Shin Min Daily news’) leaves me wondering once again… certainly her sentence would not be so light if the crime was committed ‘down-under’. Perhaps this is a cultural thing? I cannot quite fathom it.

On Christmas Eve 2006, Lim ran a red light at the junction of Whitley and Dunearn Roads, and as a result maimed a motorcyclist (David Pattiselanno) and killed his pillion passenger (24-year old maid, Melania Melaniawati – who had been in Singapore just one week).

Lim was originally sentenced to an 18-month jail term, which at the time I felt was pretty ‘light on’ for taking someone’s life carelessly, regardless of the intent.

Last Friday morning, Lim’s appeal was heard before Justice Choo Han Teck.

This is where things get a little strange for my liking… the sentence was reduced from 18-months jail, to just 1-day imprisonment with a fine of $12,000. THEN, later the same afternoon, another court session was called, in which the fine was reduced to $2,000. The fine had already been paid, so the extra $10,000 was returned to Lim. The reason is because one of the charges that Lim faced (causing death by dangerous driving) does not include a fine as a penalty.

According to Justice Choo:

“A rash act should be distinguished from a negligent act in the state of mind of the accused… it appears that (Lim) did not know that the light was red against her and the motorcycle had moved.

Careless driving may well be dangerous though not all careless driving is dangerous driving”. While the court “does not attempt to lay down what is and what is not dangerous driving”, it must consider the danger posed to other road users “in the prevailing circumstances”…

Lim is also banned from holding or obtaining a driving licence for 10 years.

So in summary – go figure – drive dangerously, permanently injure a motorcyclist and cause the death of a 24-year old passenger, and cop a day in jail with a $2,000 fine. What would you think of this sentence if it was your daughter that had lost her life in her prime as a result of a dangerous driver?

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