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On appeal, court slaps jail term on negligent driver who killed worker

A driver who got into an accident after going 24 hours without sleep had her sentence increased from a fine to a jail term, after a High Court disagreed with a lower court’s ruling that her culpability as a “sleepy driver” was a less severe form of negligence.

SINGAPORE: A driver who got into an accident after going 24 hours without sleep had her sentence increased from a fine to a jail term, after a High Court disagreed with a lower court’s ruling that her culpability as a “sleepy driver” was a less severe form of negligence.

Hue An Li, 27, went out to meet a friend after a 12-hour work shift on March 14 last year, only going home 12 hours later.

On her way back, at 7.22am, she blanked out at the wheel and crashed into the back of a lorry ferrying foreign workers near Simei, sending it spinning and flipping over to its side, throwing out the workers in the rear cabin.

One worker, Mr Mahalingam Rajesh, died, while 11 others were hurt, including one who was paralysed from the waist down.

At the three-judge Magistrate’s Appeal yesterday, Chief Prosecutor Tai Wei Shyong argued for jail-time for Hue — she had been fined S$10,000 and banned from driving for five years — given her relatively high culpability. She had knowingly put herself in a situation where she would be sleep-deprived and had chosen to drive in such a state, he noted, adding that Hue’s actions amounted to “gross negligence”.

Agreeing, Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, who heard the case together with Judge of Appeal Chao Hick Tin and Judicial Commissioner Tan Siong Thye, noted aggravating factors in sentencing Hue to four weeks’ jail.

He said the outcome of the accident was nothing short of tragic and that was a relevant consideration. He added that Hue also knew she needed rest — having gone without sleep for 24 hours; and that, after a gruelling 12-hour shift. Instead, she chose to drive on the expressway during the early-morning rush hour, which would call for “heightened alertness”.

CJ Menon said the prosecution’s appeal for a jail sentence should be allowed as the “custodial threshold has been passed”. The judges’ grounds of decision will be released at a later date.

Hue, whose parents and brother were in court yesterday, was taken into custody. Her driving ban remains.

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