State Courts apologise after man served 2 extra days in jail due to officer's error

State Courts apologise after man served 2 extra days in jail due to officer's error

Lorry driver Teo Seng Tiong at the State Courts being accompanied by his lawyer
Lorry driver Teo Seng Tiong at the State Courts on Monday Sep 23, 2019. (Photo: Rauf Khan)

SINGAPORE: The State Courts have apologised to a man who spent two more days in prison than he should have due to an error by a court officer.

Mr Teo Seng Tiong, 59, was jailed earlier this year after being found guilty of swerving his lorry into a cyclist and failing to make a police report within 24 hours of the accident.

The incident, which happened along Pasir Ris Drive 3 towards New Loyang Link on Dec 22 last year, was caught on video. Clips showing part of the altercation had gone viral.

READ: Lorry driver in viral collision with cyclist loses appeal, to serve jail term

Mr Teo was sentenced to seven weeks' jail and a fine of S$500, with an extra three days' imprisonment if he failed to pay the fine. He was also banned from driving for two years.

Mr Teo appealed against his conviction, but this was dismissed and he started serving his sentence on Jul 20. 

That same day, the fine was paid at the High Court, which notified the State Courts of the payment that day, said the State Courts in a media statement on Wednesday (Sep 2).

"However, the State Courts officer in charge of the case erroneously failed to update the warrant of commitment and the State Courts’ case management system to reflect that the fine had been paid," said the statement.

When the Singapore Prison Service asked on Aug 21 and Aug 22 whether the fine had been paid, the State Courts said it had not - the case management system was not updated due to the officer's error.

Because of this, Mr Teo served the default imprisonment term as well.

"While the default imprisonment term imposed by the court was three days, the actual default imprisonment term served by Mr Teo was two days, due to one-third of the term being remitted," said the State Courts, adding that he was released on Aug 24.

The payment of Mr Teo's fine was only discovered after the Singapore Prison Service forwarded a letter from his lawyer on Aug 24, enclosing the payment receipt.

In their statement, the State Courts said they took "immediate steps" to review work processes governing fines for cases that have gone on appeal to the High Court.

The State Courts have since implemented further safeguards such as additional levels of checks, and started an internal review of the matter, they said, adding that "appropriate action" including disciplinary action would be taken depending on the outcome of the review.

"The State Courts deeply regret what has happened, and we have conveyed our letter of apology to Mr Teo through the Attorney-General’s Chambers," they added.

In response to CNA's queries, Mr Teo's lawyer Tan Hee Joek said that his client was "grateful to the courts for their swift clarification". 

"Those extra two days were especially agonising for him as he lived in uncertainty and fear in a small cell for four," said Mr Tan.

"He trusts that the authorities will soon commence dialogue with us on how Mr Teo can be appropriately compensated in order to draw a timely closure to this unfortunate episode."

Source: CNA/nc(gs)

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