It was negligence, not recklessness

SINGAPORE - The loss of two young lives in a harrowing accident prompted stricter rules against heavy vehicles.

So the sentencing of cement truck driver Munir Mohd Naim, 57, who had pleaded guilty for causing death by negligent act not amounting to culpable homicide, was closely watched on Monday.

While some people may have been surprised by the two-week jail sentence, District Judge Tan Boon Heng explained during sentencing that the length was enough as the incident was due to negligent driving and not reckless driving.

He also said that Munir had no previous criminal record.

He could have been jailed up to two years, or fined, or both.

After his release, Munir will be banned from driving any vehicle for five years.

A lawyer later told The New Paper that the courts seemed to have toughened their stance against negligence last year, imposing a minimum of two weeks' jail when the previous practice was a heavy fine.

According to court documents, the accident happened as Munir was turning his truck left at a cross junction from Tampines Avenue 9 to Tampines Street 45 on Jan 28 last year. His was the third vehicle on the left lane.

At the time, brothers Nigel and Donavan Yap, aged 13 and seven, were on a bicycle - with Donavan riding pillion - waiting to cross Tampines Street 45 at a pedestrian crossing.

When both the pedestrian crossing and vehicle traffic lights turned green, the two vehicles went straight while Munir made a left turn as the two brothers on their bike got onto the pedestrian crossing.

The truck's front left tyre hit their bicycle, causing them to fall on the road. They were then run over by its rear left tyre.

They died of multiple injuries to the head, neck, body and limbs, according to autopsy reports.

Several people on both sides of the crossing saw the accident.

Munir admitted that while he saw some pedestrians on the pavement on the opposite side to his right, he did not notice if there was anyone on his left.

He "did not pay due care and attention and thus failed to keep a proper lookout" for the boys, said court documents prepared by Assistant Public Prosecutor Andrew Low.

Mitigation

In mitigation, Munir's lawyer Sunil Sudheesan said Munir, who has three children aged 33, 28 and 21, "never intended for the accident to happen".

"(Munir) has to live with knowing that he had caused the loss of two children. As a father himself, (he) knows how devastating this would have been for the children's family.

"This incident should nonetheless serve as a timely reminder for cyclists to get off their bicycles before availing themselves to the privileges of a pedestrian crossing."

After the incident, Munir was unemployed for a year and only recently started doing odd jobs at a sailing club.


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