Knife-wielding man who was shot by police in Clementi after charging at officer appeals against jail term
Soo Cheow Wee's lawyer asked for a reduced jail term of 23 months, while the prosecution sought either corrective training, or a lengthier term of between 57 and 63 months.
SINGAPORE: A man who was shot by the police after he charged at an officer while brandishing a knife outside Clementi Police Division appealed against his jail term in the High Court on Tuesday (Apr 18).
Soo Cheow Wee, 50, had been handed 33 months' jail in October last year after he pleaded guilty to four charges, including voluntarily causing hurt by using a cutting instrument, criminal intimidation and causing hurt to deter a public servant from his duty. Another four charges had been taken into consideration for sentencing.
His lawyer Chooi Jing Yen argued before Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon for a reduced jail term of 23 months' jail, while the prosecution sought at least five years of corrective training or a lengthier jail term of between 57 and 63 months. Corrective training is for repeat offenders and lasts between five to 14 years with no remission.
On Feb 17 last year, Soo went to Geylang, and drank cough syrup and diazepam. He then took a knife and loitered along a pavement in Clementi, randomly swinging the knife at pedestrians on the instruction of a voice he heard in his head. A 41-year-old man suffered an arm injury as a result of Soo's actions.
Soo then flagged a taxi and asked to be driven to Clementi Police Division, but tried to alight while the cab was still moving. When the taxi driver alighted to check on him, Soo charged at him. The cab driver managed to escape and drove off to Clementi Police Division to alert the police.
When police officers arrived at the scene, Soo walked towards them while holding the knife and shouted incoherently. Despite the police ordering him to stop and drop the weapon, Soo continued to advance and suddenly charged towards one of the officers, who then shot him in the left arm.
Opening the appeal in the High Court, Chief Justice Menon noted that the central issue the Court had to deal with was the state of the accused person's mental health at the time of the offences and how to allocate appropriate weight to the existence of the mental condition.
He observed that two "common grounds" between the prosecution and the defence appeared to be that Soo had drug-induced psychosis and auditory hallucinations that were quite distressing, causing him to attempt to take his life at times.
He questioned whether Soo had insight into his condition and was aware that his consumption of intoxicating substances would lead to violent behaviour.
Deputy Attorney-General Tai Wei Shyong argued that Soo was clearly aware of the link and should have appreciated the risk of becoming violent.
Mr Tai pointed to Soo's antecedents, especially an incident in 2019 when he punched an auxiliary officer while under the effects of substance abuse.
"We believe that (Soo's) drug-related and substance-related antecedents are highly relevant as the respondent now has not only relapsed back to substance addiction but went on from being a pure consumer to a violent threat to (the) public due to his addiction issues," said the prosecution in submissions, calling for an increase in the jail term for the voluntarily causing hurt with a weapon charge.
However, Chief Justice Menon questioned the relevance of the drug offences, pointing out that this assumes Soo knew that he would become violent each time he consumed intoxicating substances. This was not borne out considering Soo's antecedents, which were mostly related to drugs and inhalant abuse rather than violence, he said.
Opening the defence's arguments, Mr Chooi said Soo was a remorseful offender who pleaded guilty at the first opportunity.
"Evidence does show that in the 2022 offence he was psychotic ... and the Institute of Mental Health report says that the hallucinations and persecutory delusions would have substantially contributed to the alleged offences by impairing his decision and impulse control.
"This accused person does have a very chequered past and he knows he has issues with drugs, but what he has done over the years is to try to cope with that (and) in doing so, he's also shown that he is not someone who has a blatant disregard for the law."
Mr Chooi argued that the judge from the lower courts erred in passing sentences that were not in line with precedents submitted. Referring to Soo's criminal intimidation charge, Mr Chooi cited another case where an offender had received a lighter jail term even though his offence appeared to be more aggravated.
Chief Justice Menon reserved judgment for a later date. Soo is due to be released in December 2023 going by his current jail term, and taking into account his time spent in remand and remission.