Colonel fails in bid to blame accident victim

Colonel fails in bid to blame accident victim

A colonel in the Singapore Armed Forces who knocked down and killed an elderly pedestrian has failed in his bid to quash his conviction after he tried to blame his victim for the tragedy.

High Court judge Justice Choo Han Teck made clear that 86-year-old Mr Lau Ing See's actions could not totally absolve Tan Yan Yee of causing his death by negligent driving, saying it was not a case of a "person jumping into traffic from behind a bush".

Tan, 45, was banned from driving for three years and fined $6,000 by a district court in January over the 2011 accident, which took place when he was driving his BMW 525i along Yio Chu Kang Road. He was convicted after a four-day trial which found he had failed to keep a proper lookout for the pedestrian.

Tan sought to quash the conviction in a High Court appeal, which noted he had cooperated during investigations and the deceased did not use a pedestrian crossing.

Prosecutors opposing Tan's appeal argued that Mr Lau had been crossing near a bus stop which obliged motorists to be more careful, as the Highway Code rules.

Tan's lawyer Ramasamy Chettiar denied Tan caused Mr Lau's death, arguing among other things that visibility on the rainy night was "not good" and that Mr Lau's black umbrella had made him "less noticeable".

In judgment grounds released yesterday, Justice Choo wrote: "Should he be faulted for having used an umbrella and crossing in the manner that he did? Or more specifically, should his actions absolve a driver who collides into him of all culpability? I think not."

The judge added that even if the deceased was "partly negligent" in crossing the road when it was not safe, that would not constitute a defence for Tan.

The dead man's negligence was, however, relevant as a mitigating factor which the trial judge had taken into account, said Justice Choo.

The judge remarked that expert evidence - which defence counsel produced to suggest Tan could not have seen the victim as he was crossing the road - was rarely helpful in road collisions.

Tan's appeal could be the last reported case in which a fine is imposed on a motorist for causing death by negligent driving. Yesterday, a special court of three judges presided over by the Chief Justice in a separate case threw out a longstanding practice of imposing fines for such cases.

This article was published on May 20 in The Straits Times.

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