After a night out at Clarke Quay in September 2013, Eugene Yap Siang had a row with a taxi driver after he keyed in the wrong PIN for a Nets payment twice.
In a scuffle that ensued after the third attempt was successful, Yap, who is now 21 and serving full-time national service, grabbed 52-year-old taxi driver Rajadorai Doraisamy's jacket, covered his face with it, then pushed him to the ground, causing both of them to fall down a slope.
Yap then pinned Mr Rajadorai down, sat on his chest and punched him in the head. Mr Rajadorai broke free, but his mobile phone was damaged. He was treated at Tan Tock Seng Hospital and given three days of sick leave.
Yesterday, Yap was sentenced to 18 months of supervised probation and ordered to perform 120 hours of community service. He also has to stay indoors from 10pm to 6am. A probation suitability report submitted to the court had recommended 12 months' probation, 120 hours of community service and a curfew at night.
But Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Jason Nim urged District Judge Ong Hian Sun to impose 24 months of probation, electronic tagging and 200 hours of community service. He also asked that Yap be made to attend anger-management counselling.
The DPP urged the judge to consider, among other things, "the weighty public-interest considerations in deterring violence against public transport workers".
Mr Nim also called probation officer Nursakinah Abdul Aziz, who had assessed Yap, to the stand. The courts have previously stated that public transport workers deserve special protection, and the benchmark sentence for such offences against these workers is a jail term, he pointed out.
While the probation officer acknowledged she did not consider these factors, she stood by her findings that Yap was at low risk of reoffending. She also disagreed that Yap should wear an electronic tag, as she found him compliant with instructions to remain indoors at night. And he had strong family support from his mother and grandmother, she said.
Yap's lawyer, Mr S.S. Dhillon, pleaded for leniency, saying his client had pleaded guilty and it was his first brush with the law.
For voluntarily causing hurt, Yap, who will be completing his national service in December, could have been jailed up to two years and fined up to $5,000.
This article was first published on April 23, 2015.
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