A lorry driver, who was part of a traffic incident in 2018, has served two extra days in prison due to an error by the officer, the State Court said in a statement on Wednesday (2 September).
On 14 Jan, 59-year-old Teo Seng Tiong was sentenced to seven weeks’ imprisonment and a fine of S$500 with a two-year driving ban after being found guilty of swerving his lorry into a cyclist and failing to make a police report within 24 hours of the accident.
According to the State Court, Mr Teo’s appeal against conviction was dismissed by the High Court on 20 July and he started serving his imprisonment term on the same day.
His fine was paid at the High Court and has been notified to the State Court that same day.
“However, the State Courts officer in charge of the case erroneously failed to update the Warrant of Commitment and the State Courts’ case management system to reflect that the fine had been paid,” the statement read.
In light of this “said error by the State Courts’ officer”, the State Courts’ case management system was not updated.
Hence, when the Singapore Prison Service (SPS) asked the State Courts on 21 and 22 Aug whether the fine had been paid, the State Courts told SPS that “the fine had not been paid”.
“In the circumstances, Mr Teo served the default imprisonment term of two days,” the State Court said.
As Mr Teo would have to serve three extra days of imprisonment term if he unable to pay the fine, however, due to one-third of the term being remitted, he ended up served two extra days and was released on 24 Aug.
It noted that the payment of fine was only discovered after the SPS forwarded a letter from Mr Teo’s lawyer on 24 Aug, enclosing the payment receipt.
Following this, the State Court said it “took immediate steps” to review the work processes governing fines for State Courts cases that have gone on appeal to the High Court.
“We have since implemented further safeguards, such as additional levels of checks, as well as commenced an internal review of the matter. Depending on the outcome of the review, appropriate action (including disciplinary action) will be taken,” it noted.
It also expressed that it “deeply regret” what has happened, and a letter of apology has been conveyed to Mr Teo through the Attorney-General’s Chambers.
On 22 December 2018, Mr Teo along with a cyclist, British national Eric Cheung Hoyu, were involved in an altercation. This resulted in Mr Teo intruding into the path of a taxi on his right, hence causing him to swerve left and collided into the cyclist.
Last April, the cyclist was fined S$2,800 after he pleaded guilty to two charges of committing mischief by knocking off the side mirror of Mr Teo’s lorry with his hand, and for not cycling in an orderly and careful manner based on the traffic regulations.
Netizens feel that a letter of apology by the State Court is not enough
Upon reading the news, many netizens felt that it is unfair to the lorry driver as he has to spent the “miserable two days” in jail than he should have while his fine was being paid.
Noting that just a letter of apology by the State Court “is not sincere enough”, they felt that the State Court should hold responsible for this and compensate the lorry driver or at least refund the fine.
While expressing sympathy to Mr Teo, the netizens called out the Court over its mistake, saying that they should come out with “countermeasures” to prevent similar incidents and reprimand the officers for the negligence of duty.
With the intention to help the lorry driver, some netizens also called out the lawyers and Member of Parliaments to help the lorry driver “to settle his unfairness”.