SINGAPORE: A Maserati driver who dragged a traffic police officer along the road with his vehicle in an escape bid and reoffended while on bail pending appeal wants his vehicle back.
Lee Cheng Yan, 39, also asked the High Court to give him a lower jail term by making some sentences run concurrently, in a criminal motion heard on Wednesday (Jan 18).
Lee is currently serving a total sentence of six years, four months and 16 weeks.
He has two lifetime driving bans – one meted out to him for his 2017 incident with the police officer, and the second in 2022 for reoffending by driving while banned and again evading the police.
On Wednesday, Lee told the court via Zoom that he wanted his Maserati to be returned so he could sell it and use the proceeds to provide for his two daughters in Japan.
He said his sister has been communicating with the Attorney-General’s Chambers for months about this issue, to no avail.
Lee also asked the court to reduce his sentence. He said he was “really sorry” for his actions and did not realise the consequences of his actions, while he was “having my freedom outside”.
He said his sentences added up “is a bit high” with “all proceeded consecutively, with almost no concurrent at all”.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Timotheus Koh said a hearing has been fixed in the State Courts over the forfeiture of the vehicle for Jan 25.
He cited the Road Traffic Act and said that if a repeat offender is convicted of driving while under disqualification and the prosecution applies to forfeit the vehicle, the State Court would have no alternative but to forfeit it.
Justice Aedit Abdullah said while the provision may appear to be mandatory, he “would be surprised” if Lee was not informed of the forfeiture hearing.
“Normally, they would be given the opportunity to be present to make whatever arguments they want to,” he said.
He gave directions for Lee and his sister to be informed of the hearing so they can attend.
On the call for a lower sentence, the prosecutor said Lee had not mounted an appeal and there has been a delay of nine months.
Lee did not give sufficient reasons for his delay, saying that he was ignorant of the timelines provided and that he was inhibited by COVID-19 isolation.
Mr Koh said Lee should be aware of the timelines as he did successfully appeal against his first sentence for the 2017 incident.
As for his claim of isolation, Lee had told prison officers in the beginning that he did not want to appeal, and this was his choice, said Mr Koh.
The sentences are fair, given that Lee had reoffended in largely the same manner while on bail, he added.
Lee tried to ask for lower sentences, repeating his same points, but Justice Abdullah began to respond sternly to him.
“Mr Lee, you are charged this way because you drove under disqualification on three occasions,” he said. “You drove on separate days, so you get separate charges.”
He said Lee seemed to be downplaying his responsibility and does not seem to be remorseful nor understand the seriousness of what he had done.
“I understand what I have done, but the sentences are a bit high,” Lee answered.
“No, Mr Lee, the sentences are not high, they are right,” replied Justice Abdullah.
“In fact, they could have been higher, now that I look at it again. Aside from your dangerous driving, it is not the right thing to go around driving while under disqualification on three occasions, it’s not even the same day Mr Lee. Five months each is not high. This is not your first offence, this is an enhanced offence, and you were already sentenced back in 2017 for three months, three to five months is not a high uplift,” he said.
“You have not learnt your lesson,” the judge told Lee. “I cannot understand why you can come here and ask for a reduction this way. You should be thankful the sentence was not the maximum.”
He said Lee should spend his time in jail thinking about what he did.
“There is no merit whatsoever (in this criminal motion). I have not even probed you on (the delay),” said Justice Abdullah.
“I really hope your honour can give me a chance and some leniency. I’m really, really remorseful,” said Lee.
“You’re remorseful? All right,” replied the judge.
Lee said he hoped for a chance to reunite with his daughters slightly earlier.
Justice Abdullah dismissed his criminal motion, saying he saw no reason to disturb the sentences that were imposed.
“Family relationships are important, but people should think carefully about the consequences of their actions before committing them,” he concluded.
BACKGROUND OF THE CASE
Lee was first sentenced in July 2020 to a jail term of four years and seven months, along with a fine of S$3,700 and a lifetime driving ban.
This was for dragging a traffic police officer with his car for more than 100m in a bid to escape.
Lee was also banned from driving at the time in November 2017 when the officer stopped him for driving without a seat belt on.
The officer was caught in the driver’s door of Lee’s Maserati by his uniform and dragged along when Lee sped off.
The officer later fell off and was given more than 20 days’ of medical leave for injuries to his knee, neck and back and later medically downgraded by the Home Team’s medical board.
While on bail pending appeal, Lee reoffended by driving while under disqualification. He also drove dangerously and evaded a police roadblock.
He was sentenced in 2022 to another 21 months and 16 weeks’ jail, banned from driving for life again and issued a S$1,000 penalty.
The 2022 sentence included terms for other offences related to illegal football betting and instigating a man to gain unauthorised access to Singtel’s system in order to retrieve subscribers’ addresses, so a third party could track them down for money owed.