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Hawker jailed for slashing man's face with saw at coffee shop after dispute over cigarette smoke

Hawker jailed for slashing man's face with saw at coffee shop after dispute over cigarette smoke

FILE PHOTO: Smoke rises from a burning cigarette in Bordeaux, France, September 19, 2017. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau

SINGAPORE: An intoxicated man slashed a coffee shop patron's face with a saw after a dispute over cigarette smoke, leaving scars on the victim's face.

For one count of voluntarily causing hurt with a cutting instrument, 52-year-old Leaw Hian Ling was jailed 14 months on Tuesday (Feb 25) and ordered to pay the victim about S$2,400 in compensation.

The court heard that Leaw had been drinking with a friend, 36-year-old Chen Chunhou, at the coffee shop at 88 Lorong 25A Geylang on Apr 3 last year.

They were seated in the smoking area, next to a table where the victim, a 53-year-old man, sat drinking with his group of friends.

Leaw's friend was annoyed as cigarette smoke from the victim's table was blowing over to his side, said Deputy Public Prosecutor Stephanie Koh.

He told the men at the victim's table to stop smoking and the two groups began arguing.

Leaw told his friend to leave and left the coffee shop to go to a hardware store nearby, as he needed to do some repair work on his hawker stall.

After buying the saw, Leaw returned to the coffee shop and saw his friend arguing with the victim. 

Leaw was highly intoxicated at the time and grew angry. He took out the saw from its plastic bag and swung it at the victim, slashing him across the right side of his face.

The victim, who began bleeding, grabbed the saw and two other people managed to restrain Leaw, pinning him down until the police arrived.

The coffee shop owner went to see what happened as his employees had alerted him to the incident. 

When he saw Leaw pinned on the blood-stained table and found out what happened, the coffee shop owner hit Leaw on the head with an ash tray, drawing blood.

Leaw's victim was taken to hospital with a 15cm laceration over his cheek and incurred about S$2,400 in medical expenses.

SCAR STILL VISIBLE ON VICTIM'S FACE

Although the wound has healed, the scar is still clearly visible on his face, said the prosecutor.

She asked for at least 15 months' jail and for Leaw to pay the victim compensation for his medical bills, saying the attack left a noticeable scar.

"The accused was the aggressor who attacked the victim despite not being involved in the argument itself," said Ms Koh.

She added that there was "no reason" for Leaw to launch "a sudden violent attack with a weapon", and said he was "persistently aggressive and had to be restrained until the police arrived".

Defence lawyers Josephus Tan and Cory Wong of Invictus Law asked instead for not more than a year's jail, with no caning.

Mr Tan said Leaw had offended on the spur of the moment and had no previous violence-related convictions.

He said Leaw bought the saw that night only to repair his stall, not to exact revenge.

He urged the court to temper justice with mercy, saying his client had pleaded guilty and was cooperative with authorities.

District Judge Marvin Bay told Leaw that his case involved "a savage attack over a seemingly trivial disagreement over smoking".

"Other than the likely disinhibiting effects of your prior consumption of alcohol, the reason for such an intense and brutal attack ... remains baffling," he said.

He also noted that Leaw used a 56cm-long saw with a serrated edge that left a laceration and a visible scar on the victim.

"There is a clear need to deter persons from following you in launching impulsive attacks leaving potentially disfiguring injuries as a violent response to a verbal disagreement in a public place," said the judge.

For voluntarily causing hurt by a cutting instrument, Leaw could have been jailed for up to seven years, fined, caned or given any combination of these punishments.

Source: CNA/ll(hs)

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