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Selina Lum
Thu, Mar 20, 2008
The Straits Times
Jail term for hit-and-driver upped from 1 to 4 years

A 30-YEAR-OLD hit-and-run driver who killed a 79-year-old woman - while he was barred from driving - had his original one-year jail term upped to four years on Thursday by Chief Justice Chan Sek Keong.

In raising the sentence of Charles Lee Cheow Loong after an appeal by prosecutors, CJ Chan noted that this was one of the worst traffic violation cases to come to court.

Lee's original jail term, handed down in a district court last December, was 'horribly inadequate', said the CJ, noting that at the time of the accident, on Nov 16, 2006, Lee was two months into an 18-month suspension for drink driving.

But Lee defied the law and got behind the wheel again. 'This time, he killed somebody,' said the CJ.

Lee was speeding along Eu Tong Sen Street at about 6.40am when he knocked down Madam Pang Kong Hoon at the junction of Pearl's Hill Terrace.

Instead of stopping to help her, he drove off and parked the car at a basement carpark in Balestier.

But the license plate of the car was left at the scene and police went knocking on his door that afternoon.

Lee turned himself in only at about 10.30am the next day, more than 28 hours after the accident.

Last November, Lee pleaded guilty to five charges: causing Madam Pang's death by his rash driving; driving under disqualification; failing to give help; moving the BMW without permission; and driving without insurance coverage.

Two other charges of failing to stop after an accident and not making a police report were taken into consideration.

He was jailed for a year and banned from driving for 10 years. The prosecution appealed.

Solicitor-General Walter Woon pressed the court for a jail term of between three to four years.

He said that given Lee's propensity to ignore court orders and his lack of a sense of responsibility, the public can be protected only if he is locked up for a substantial period.

Lee's lawyer, Mr Alan Moh, argued that Lee had 'exceeded the speed limit but was not exceedingly fast', and said his client had turned himself in 28 hours.

He also argued that his client 'leaving the scene was inevitable' because he was fearful of being beaten up by a gathering crowd. But this did not wash with the CJ, who admonished the lawyer for 'making the case worse' with his arguments.

After the hearing, Lee's parents and relatives created a scene outside the courtroom, ranting, cursing and decrying the justice system. Police officers had to persuade them to leave.


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