SINGAPORE: In a case of road rage dubbed "novel" by the judge, a former taxi driver took a can of insecticide and sprayed it at a rival cabby, before setting fire to the stream with a lighter.
For his actions, 66-year-old former ComfortDelGro cabby Ng Soon Kim was sentenced to a year and two months in jail, as well as an 18-month driving ban.
Ng was also ordered to pay the victim, 61-year-old Transcab driver Lam Choon Chai, compensation of S$115.
The court heard that the two cabbies were in their vehicles at a taxi queue at the VivoCity taxi stand on May 1, 2017.
At about 8pm, as Mr Lam waited in line to pick up passengers, Ng abruptly cut into his lane, nearly causing Mr Lam's taxi to collide into the wall.
Both men picked up passengers from the taxi stand and drove towards the traffic junction at Harbourfront Walk and Telok Blangah Road.
When the two men stopped beside each other at the red light, Mr Lam wound down his passenger window and began shouting at Ng.
He confronted Ng about how he had driven earlier, and used Hokkien vulgarities in his speech.
Faced with this verbal onslaught, Ng alighted from his cab with a can of insecticide he had inside his vehicle.
He stretched his arm into the other cabby's vehicle and sprayed it twice at Mr Lam. Some of the insecticide entered Mr Lam's eyes, and a passenger who was inside Mr Lam's taxi shouted at Ng.
Ng did not stop and returned to his own taxi to retrieve a lighter and went back to Mr Lam's taxi. He then sprayed the can of insecticide at Mr Lam a third time, igniting the aerosol stream with his lighter and creating a flash fire.
Mr Lam called the police and was taken to hospital with first-degree superficial burns to his ear, cheek and neck.
VERY CREATIVE USE OF HOUSEHOLD ITEMS: PROSECUTOR
The prosecution on Thursday asked the court to impose a jail sentence of a year and two months, pointing out that Ng had displayed an "unprecedented use of instruments" in the case of road rage.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Grace Chua said Ng had shown "very creative use of household items readily available to the public", and stressed that passengers should have the right to feel safe in taxis.
Ng's defence lawyer Mervyn Tan said the jail term asked for by the prosecution was too high, and said that his client had a clean record.
He had also been frustrated at the time of the offence as he had lost his job as a manager and had to drive a taxi, and was also going through a divorce.
Since the offence, Ng has suffered a heart attack and is now depressed, Mr Tan said.
IT TAKES TWO HANDS TO CLAP: DEFENCE
"The prosecution would have the court believe that this was a one-way transaction," said Mr Tan. "It takes two hands to clap."
District Judge Kenneth Yap mused: "There are many frustrated people on the roads."
The prosecutor added: "Everyone is frustrated about work, about family life. But you can't go up to a car and set a flash fire."
In response, Mr Tan said: "He did not bring a can of insecticide with him that day looking for someone to start a fire."
The judge ultimately agreed with the prosecution's recommended sentence. He told Ng that he hoped Ng realised this was an incident of "extreme road rage".
"We cannot have people taking actions in their own hands," said the judge. "This is a novel case involving the use of insecticide and a lighter to create a flash fire. The actual harm is not that high, but the potential harm is definitely real."
He pointed out that there was a passenger in the victim's car, and that the offence was committed at a red light in view of other drivers.
"We cannot have in Singapore someone trying to create a fireball at a junction," said the judge. "Most cases of road rage, they shout at or spit at each other. What you've done is very extreme. It's just not acceptable."
The judge allowed Ng to defer his sentence until Feb 19. For voluntarily causing hurt by means of fire, he could have been jailed for up to seven years, fined, caned, or given any combination of the three punishments.