MALAYSIA — The Court of Appeal on Tuesday (11 Apr) acquitted and discharged clerk, Sam Ke Ting, of the charge of reckless driving causing the death of eight teenagers who were riding illegal modified bicycles in 2017.

The three-judge panel, led by Datuk Hadhariah Syed Ismail sitting with Datuk Hashim Hamzah and Datuk Azman Abdullah, unanimously made the decision to set aside the six-year imprisonment and RM6,000 (1,359 USD) fine imposed by the High Court on Ke Ting.

“In this case, the charge was incorrect, it was defective. The conviction was also incorrect. On these grounds alone, the appeal is allowed,” Justice Hadhariah said.

“That is how the law stands. You cannot simply say that because it is a fatal accident, the driver must have been liable. That is not what the law says.”

“You are now a free person,” the judge told Ms Sam, and ordered that Ms Sam’s RM10,000 (2,265 USD) bail money to be returned to her.

Prosecution fails to clarify charges against Ms Sam

On 31 March, One of Sam’s lawyers, Datuk Hisyam Teh Poh Teik, argued that the illegality committed by Ms Sam was not curable under Section 422 of the Criminal Procedure Code and had led to a “failure of justice.”

On Tuesday, the three judges of the Appeals Court asked the prosecution to confirm the basis of the conviction of Ms. Sam. Was it for reckless or dangerous driving?

The deputy public prosecutor, Tengku Amir Zaki, responded that the High Court had convicted Ms. Sam based on the charge of reckless or dangerous driving.

Judge Hadhariah pointed out that the prosecution had not made a distinction between the two charges in the past, but the defense had always argued separately for reckless driving and dangerous driving charges.

When the prosecution was unable to answer this, the other deputy public prosecutor, Safiq, said that a witness had testified that several vehicles had passed through the road before the accident, indicating that vehicles could have been driven at a not too fast pace.

Judge Hadhariah continued to inquire about the types of vehicles that passed through the road – were they cars, lorries, or motorcycles? To this, Safiq responded that the witness did not specify what type of vehicles they were.

Then Judge Hadhariah asked the prosecution again if there was any law stating whether riding a modified bicycle on the highway in the early hours of the morning was legal or not?

The deputy public prosecutor did not respond to this question.

It was not until the judge asked if driving a car on the road in the early hours of the morning was legal that the prosecution answered “yes, Your Honor.”

Modified bicycles appear on highway at midnight causing danger

The judge also pointed out that the accident happened on a slope and the road was dimly lit, with trees blocking the view, and Ms. Sam did not know, nor could she have anticipated that there were 30 to 40 modified bicycles on the road ahead.

“The accident happened too quickly. Even the most perfect driver, do you think they can avoid a cat on the road or a group of slow-moving tortoises on the highway?” Judge Hadhariah questioned the prosecutor.

The judge stated that she had read the judgment written by the Magistrate Court, which mentioned that the 46th witness (the investigating officer of the case) testified that the danger was caused by the modified bicycles.

“Two days before the incident, the police received public complaints about the modified bicycles, and therefore launched a special operation to ban them.”

She believed that this testimony was favorable to the defense and was undeniable. She told the prosecution, “We need to be honest, and what we say here (in court) is justice.”

Ms Sam still haunted by the tragic incident

“Every second and thought of mine is haunted by the tragic incident that sacrificed those teenagers, and I will carry it with me to their graves,” said told reporters after court proceedings.

The 28-year-old clerk said that the incident was always on her mind, and she often wondered about the lives and futures of the families of the teenagers who were sacrificed as a result of the accident.

Throughout the six years of the trial, she said that any statement would not bring peace to the families of the victims.

“My words cannot bring the deceased back to their families, but I want to convey to their families that I share the pain of the tragedy.”

“I sincerely apologise to them, although I know and understand that forgiveness is difficult to accept,” she said.

MS Sam was involved in a fatal accident with a group of teenagers who were riding illegally modified bicycles, commonly known as basikal lajak.

She was accused of committing the offence on Jalan Lingkaran Dalam, Johor Bahru, at 3.20 am on February 18, 2017.

Eight teenagers were killed in the accident, and another eight were injured.

The deceased teenagers were: Mohamad Azrie Danish Zulkefli, 14; Muhamad Shahrul Izzwan Azzuraimie, 14; Muhammad Firdauz Danish Mohd Azhar, 16; Fauzan Halmijan, 13; Mohamad Azhar Amir, 16; Muhammad Harith Iskandar Abdullah, 14; Muhammad Shahrul Nizam Marudin, 14 and Haizad Kasrin,16.

A video, purportedly captured by a dashcam on a vehicle, circulated on social media, which allegedly shows the group of teenagers riding modified bicycles on the highway prior to the accident:

Ms Sam was charged under Section 41 (1) of the Road Transport Act 1987 (Act 333), which carries a maximum jail term of 10 years and a fine of RM20,000.

She was sentenced to six years in prison and a RM6,000 fine on April 13, 2022, for reckless driving that caused the deaths of the eight teenagers.

After her sentencing, more than 700,000 signatures were added to online petitions on her behalf, and her appeal against the conviction, sentence, and fine was set for March 31, 2023.

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