SINGAPORE: A man who offered the Prime Minister's eldest son a ride and filmed him while driving was fined S$900 and banned from driving for eight months on Thursday (Nov 14).
The court action comes nine months after the incident on Mar 15, with the clips going viral and police stepping in to investigate.
Andrew Sim Kay Yong, 32, pleaded guilty to one charge under the Road Traffic Act of using his phone to record four video clips of 37-year-old Li Yipeng while driving.
The court heard that Sim was driving a Toyota Estima along 1 Esplanade Drive when he spotted Mr Li waiting at the taxi stand of the Esplanade Mall at about 3.50pm.
"Recognising Mr Li as the son of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, the accused pulled up to the taxi stand area, rolled down the passenger-side window and offered Mr Li a ride," said Deputy Public Prosecutor Tay Jingxi.
Mr Li initially refused, she said, but eventually got into the car after conversing further with Sim, who was a stranger to him.
Mr Li sat in the rear passenger seat and asked to be taken to Rochalie Drive.
FOUR VIDEO RECORDINGS WERE MADE OF MR LI YIPENG
As he was driving to the destination, Sim had one hand over his shoulder recording the videos of Mr Li with his phone. Each clip was under a minute in length. His other hand was on the steering wheel, the court heard.
"In doing so, the accused lessened his ability to control the vehicle and diminished his concentration on the road," said the prosecutor.
She said it was clear from the footage that Sim did not place the phone in a mobile phone stand to record the clips.
Along the way, Mr Li asked to be dropped off at 295 Tanglin Road instead and subsequently alighted.
Sim did not collect any money from him for the ride, said the prosecutor.
The judge asked for the clips to be played to the court. In the videos, Sim can be heard asking Mr Li questions such as: "So your dad is the Prime Minister of Singapore?" and "What book are you reading?"
He also asked: "Have you seen your uncle recently, Lee Hsien Yang?" and "Is your dad a very strict person?"
MULTIPLE TRAFFIC-RELATED OFFENCES
The prosecutor asked the court to impose the maximum fine of S$1,000 and an eight-month driving ban, pointing out that Sim had previously committed multiple traffic-related offences.
READ: It was in the 'public interest' to reveal criminal history of driver who took PM Lee’s son for a ride: Shanmugam
These date from 2006 to 2018. They include speeding, failing to adhere to red light signals, failing to wear a seat belt and taking a motor vehicle without the owner's consent.
He was also convicted of one count of taking a motor vehicle without the owner's permission.
The prosecutor said these incidents show Sim's "propensity" to flout traffic rules designed to ensure the safety of drivers and other road users.
She said the fact that Sim had taken four different videos of his passenger meant that he had made "a conscious and deliberate decision to commit the offence".
She added that Sim had placed both himself, his passenger and other road users "at risk of danger" and asked for an increase to the benchmark sentence.
ACCUSED WANTED TO PLEAD GUILTY SOON AFTER BEING CHARGED: DEFENCE
Defence lawyers Josephus Tan and Cory Wong of Invictus Law asked for a fine not exceeding S$800 and a five-month driving ban.
Mr Tan said Sim had been "very cooperative with the authorities" and had wanted to plead guilty within six days of being charged in early October.
"It's not entirely clear in the statement of facts as to how the incident started," said Mr Tan.
"Really, the accused person was driving by Esplanade and of course, much to his excitement, he saw Mr Li and he offered a free ride to Mr Li ... just like any Good Samaritan would," Mr Tan added.
The judge interjected, saying "I'm not sure that's really the role of a Good Samaritan".
The lawyer added that Sim's intention was to show the clips to his friends. However, after he sent the clips to his close friends, they were subsequently uploaded online without his knowledge and went viral, said Mr Tan, adding that it was Sim's first time committing such an offence.
District Judge Lorraine Ho said the videos "captured the passenger very clearly from top to bottom, which required some effort".
"That to me would be the concern ... as compared to someone who perhaps has just haphazardly.. (videoed) while driving," she said.
She agreed with the prosecution that an increase to the benchmark sentence was needed, as there were aggravating factors in this case compared with a previous similar case.
"He knew exactly who the victim was, deliberately agreed to give him a free ride knowing who the victim was," said the judge.
"The victim had no knowledge of what the accused was doing. (Sim) not only had to take concerted efforts to hide what he was doing, he also had to ensure he (aimed) the camera in such a manner to ensure he had to take the full view of the victim ... while he was using his other hand to drive. "
The judge ordered that Sim's phone be forfeited for destruction.
For using his phone while driving, Sim could have been jailed for up to six months, fined a maximum S$1,000 or both.