SINGAPORE: A 26-year-old man involved in a "night of mindless group violence" Christmas Eve three years ago, and who punched and ultimately caused the death of a Universal Studios Singapore stuntman, has had his sentence reduced by the High Court.
Muhammad Khalis Ramlee had initially been sentenced to an aggregate of 10 years’ jail and 24 strokes of the cane for his role in the events that resulted in the death of American John Denley Nelson, who had tried to intervene as a peacemaker.
On Friday (May 11), Khalis’ aggregate sentence was reduced to seven and a half years’ jail and 20 strokes of the cane.
Khalis had been convicted in the State Courts for two counts of rioting and one count of drug consumption. He was also convicted of one charge of voluntarily causing grievous hurt, for which he had received a sentence of seven years’ jail and 12 strokes of the cane.
According to court documents, Khalis and some of his friends had gathered at a bar on Circular Road for drinks on Christmas Eve 2015. Some members of the group, according to the documents, had secret society affiliations.
At about 2.40am, two of Khalis’ friends, who were in a relationship, started quarrelling outside the bar. Most of the group followed the couple and tried to break up the fight, which had turned loud and violent and attracted the attention of others in the area.
Unhappy that they were being watched, some members of the group, including Khalis, began attacking the onlookers, eventually resulting in two separate fights breaking out.
Shortly after the fights, Mr Nelson, who was not involved in the brawls, stepped in to try and make peace between the attackers and one victim who was left behind.
Khalis then lunged at Mr Nelson from behind and punched him so forcefully that Mr Nelson fell to the ground, with his head and shoulders hitting the kerb. Witnesses said Mr Nelson hit the ground with a loud crack.
Nr Nelson was rushed to hospital where an emergency brain surgery was performed. However, he succumbed to severe head injuries and died on Jan 1, 2016.
Khalis, who contended that the sentence he received for the grievous hurt charge was “manifestly excessive”, had his sentence for the charge reduced to four and a half years’ jail and eight strokes of the cane.
DISTRICT JUDGE “UNDULY INFLUENCED” BY KHALIS’ INVOLVEMENT IN OTHER TWO FIGHTS
In his written judgement, Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon pointed out that the district judge rightly considered that Khalis’ attack was “unprovoked and sudden”, leaving Mr Nelson with little chance to defend himself.
However, CJ Menon also noted that in determining the appropriate sentence for Khalis, the district judge had been “unduly influenced” by Khalis’ involvement in the riots, which had preceded his attack on Mr Nelson.
CJ Menon explained that although the district judge had said he was mindful that the sentence imposed for the grievous hurt charge should not doubly punish Khalis for taking part in the riots, the district judge had nonetheless considered that “he could not ignore the fact that the (grievous hurt offence) had occurred in the context of a night of mindless group violence”.
“While the context of (Khalis’) violence might conceivably have been relevant, his attack on (Mr Nelson) could not be said to be part of the two riots and thus a part of the mindless group violence that pervaded the night,” wrote CJ Menon.
He added that the highest case that could be mounted against Khalis was that he had intended to “forcefully punch” Mr Nelson, in circumstances where he knew this was likely to cause a fracture or other forms of grievous hurt either directly or through causing him to fall.
“This is at some distance from the death that ensued, and it seems to me that this is a further factor that calls for the sentence to be moderated,” he said.
For causing grievous hurt, Khalis could have been jailed up to 10 years, with a fine or caning.