Jail for ex-sergeant who got untrained NSF to drive jeep

Former master sergeant who ordered a full-time national serviceman (NSF) to drive a jeep when the latter had no valid licence was jailed a total of six months yesterday for the rash act and attempting to pervert the course of justice.

The incident on the night of May 10, 2012 - during a training exercise in Marsiling - resulted in the death of an NSF and injuries to two others. The three were in the jeep driven by then NSF Cavin Tan, who had been sentenced to a 10-day short detention order, which is intended to be less disruptive and stigmatising than jail.

Tan's superior, Lee Kong Kean, 33, then a senior specialist instructor, had admitted to the two charges.

A day after the incident, he told a group of instructors, including Tan, of his intention to lie to investigators that Tan had stolen the jeep involved in the accident, which resulted in the death of NSF Tan Mou Sheng, 20.

Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Tang Shangjun said Lee has a Class 3 military driving licence and was fully aware of the requirements needed to obtain the licence.

As the conducting officer of the exercise, Lee had a duty to ensure that safety procedures and training protocol were strictly adhered to, DPP Tang said.

But Lee went ahead to assign Cavin Tan, now 23, as the jeep driver, even though he knew the NSF did not have a valid licence and had not been trained to drive a jeep.

Cavin Tan lost control of the jeep on a downward slope. The vehicle tilted, rotated around and overturned several times before landing on its side.

Two NSFs - Dickson Hong and Ow Yong Wei Long - were thrown out and injured, while Mr Tan Mou Sheng was pinned under the jeep. He died from severe pelvic injuries the next day.

DPP Tang argued that there were multiple aggravating factors which justified a long prison sentence. He said Lee had abused his authority and showed no remorse, and the reputation of the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) had been tarnished because of this incident.

Lee's lawyers, Sunil Sudheesan and Diana Ngiam, said their client had made a mistake and was remorseful.

"He was in a state of panic and he said what he said, but he did not persist," said Mr Sunil. He also told the court that his client, who has been suspended, had served in the army for about 11 years without any incident until the day of the accident.

District Judge Shaiffudin Saruwan said a single tragic accident like the case could damage the SAF's reputation. He said such transgressions had to be dealt with severely.

Lee could have been jailed up to six months and/or fined up to $2,500 for acting so rashly as to endanger life. For attempting to pervert the course of justice, the maximum penalty is 31/2 years' jail and a fine.


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