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Law [left], Quek [right]

Mercedes Benz driver jailed 4 weeks for death of coffeeshop assistant

Law [left], Quek [right]
Law [left], Quek [right]
Mercedes Benz owner, Ambrose Law Tian Beng, who killed a cyclist in December last year along Thomson Road, has been sentenced to four weeks jail and a five-year ban on driving.

The incident happened when Mr Law was driving home after spending a night out with friends on 17 December 2013.

Mr Law’s Mercedes Benz piled into 58-year old coffeeshop assistant, Mr Quek Chin Chong, who was riding his bicycle along Thomson Road at around midnight then.

Mr Quek was pronounced dead five hours later at Tan Tock Seng hospital.

His younger sister, with the help of her friends and relatives, had sought help online after the accident appealing for eyewitnesses to step forward.

“It's a shocking thing,” Ms Quek told the media in December. “We went to the hospital and within two hours, he was dead.”

In court on Wednesday, Mr Law’s lawyer pleaded for leniency for his client whom he said had admitted to causing the death of Mr Quek, and that his client was “a senior advisor for a consultancy advisory firm.”

According to the Straits Times:

A district court heard that Law had been for dinner with friends at Sin Ming Industrial Estate where he drank 1 1/2 glasses of wine.

His friend drove him home. At about 10.15pm, he drove to Four Seasons Hotel to join the same group of friends for drinks. He recalled drinking less than a glass of wine.

When the first police officer arrived at the accident scene, he noticed that Law smelt strongly of alcohol, had a flushed face and bloodshot eyes.

Law had admitted that he dozed off while driving along Thomson Road. He recalled hitting a tree after mounting the kerb but was not aware of any contact with the cyclist.

Mr Law’s lawyer, Ravinderpal Singh said in his mitigation plea that his client “was the global chief financial officer at Merrill Lynch International Bank and Bank of Singapore before he retired.”

He said that Mr Law has also been active in the community and charity work, and that his client, a regular blood donor, deeply regretted the incident.

Those found guilty of causing death through negligence could be jailed for up to two years and/or be fined.

In September, the Court of Appeal laid down a landmark judgment where it said that the default starting sentence for motorists who cause death by negligent driving will now be a jail term of up to four weeks. (See here.)

The benchmark was set out by Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, who led a specially-constituted three-judge panel in hearing an appeal by prosecutors to impose jail time on a sleepy driver who killed one and injured 11 others.

CJ Sundaresh Menon called the judgment “significant change in the law”.

“We would like to take this opportunity to signal to drivers the consequences of the tremendous risks that they take on,” the three judges said, “not only to themselves but also to other innocent road users, when they drive despite not being in a fit condition to do so.”

Mr Quek is the fourth of eight children and lived in Braddell Hill. His sister described him as a “simple and hardworking man.”

He leaves behind his siblings and his 86-year old mother whom Ms Quek said was "devastated and unable to come to terms with his death.”

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On 16 September 2013, MP Baey Yam Keng asked if the government would toughen penalties for drink-drivers.

BaeyMr Baey Yam Keng: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Home Affairs with regard to drink-driving accidents resulting in injuries or fatalities, whether the Road Traffic Act can be amended to further differentiate between the type and length of punishment for accidents caused by carelessness and drink-driving.

Oral Reply by Mr S Iswaran, Minister in Prime Minister’s Office, Second Minister for Home Affairs & Trade and Industry:

Madam Speaker, depending on the facts of the case, a driver who causes a fatal traffic accident may be charged under the Road Traffic Act or the Penal Code for one of the following offences:

iswarana. The offence of causing death by negligent act under Section 304A(b) of the Penal Code which carries a penalty of up to 2 years imprisonment and/or a fine;
b. The offence of causing death by rash act under Section 304A(a) of the Penal Code which carries a penalty of up to 5 years imprisonment and/or a fine; or
c. The offence of causing death by dangerous driving under Section 66(1) of the Road Traffic Act which carries a penalty of up to 5 years imprisonment for a first offender and up to 10 years imprisonment with caning for repeat offenders.

A driver who causes an injury accident will similarly be charged for one of a range of different offences, depending on the facts of the case.

2. A driver who causes a fatal or injury traffic accident while driving under the influence of alcohol will face an additional drink-driving charge under section 67(1) of the Road Traffic Act. Under this charge, the maximum penalty for a first offender is a fine between $1,000 and $5,000 or imprisonment of up to 6 months. If the driver is a second-time offender, he can be sentenced to a fine between $3,000 and $10,000 and imprisonment up to 12 months.

Subsequent offenders who have caused serious injury or death in a traffic accident may be punished with up to three times the punishment specified for drink-driving, that is, between $3,000 and $15,000 in fines, and up to 18 months imprisonment, which includes caning as well.

The courts view intoxication of the driver as an aggravating factor and in the case of fatal accidents, will generally sentence the driver to imprisonment. In egregious cases, where the driver significantly exceeds the legal alcohol limit, the prosecution will seek a sentence that reflects the driver's callous disregard of the law and the safety of other road users. Drink-drivers will also be disqualified from driving for at least 12 months.

3. Our laws therefore already provide for a range of offences and punishments that allow the prosecution and the courts to take calibrated action with respect to the different cases of accidents caused by carelessness and drink-drinking according to the individual circumstances and culpability of the driver. Hence, we do not see the need to amend the Road Traffic Act to further increase the range and severity of the penalties.

4. Madam, I would also like to inform Members that the Traffic Police takes a comprehensive approach to deter and discourage drunk driving. Apart from regular drink-driving enforcement operations, the Traffic Police also conducts education initiatives such as the annual Anti-Drink Drive Campaign to discourage motorists from driving to drink and to educate the community on the consequences of drink-driving.