IndoChine group CEO Michael Ma Zhen Hu failed in his appeal to reduce the driving disqualification term of the dangerous driving charge he was convicted of earlier on Feb. 23, 2023.
The 55-year-old Ma, an Australian holding Singaporean permanent residency, was sentenced to a fine of S$3,500 and a driving disqualification term of 15 months for reversing 50m along Clemenceau Avenue to U-turn away from a roadblock.
It was previously revealed that he was on the way to send home a female customer, who he claimed was “drunk and distraught”, from his Club Street restaurant at around midnight on Apr. 16, 2021.
High court judge unconvinced by Ma’s arguments
According to the judgment delivered by High Court judge Vincent Hoong on Sep. 8, 2023, Ma was dissatisfied with the length of the disqualification order imposed by the district judge and argued for six months of disqualification instead.
However, Hoong was unconvinced by most of Ma’s lawyers’ arguments.
Claimed that he watched for traffic, reversed slowly and turned on hazard lights
Ma’s lawyers argued against the district judge’s findings that the potential harm arising from Ma’s manner of driving was significant and the danger posed was considerable.
They said Ma “had come to a complete stop” and “only proceeded to reverse the car against the flow of traffic when he had observed that there were no vehicles behind the car”.
The lawyers added that Ma “reversed at a slow speed” of about 30km per hour and had hazard lights on.
Hoong disagreed with the lawyers, pointing out that even though Ma took “precautionary steps”, “the fact remains that he reversed against the flow of traffic on a four-lane road for a considerable distance”.
Hoong added that Ma’s conduct was “behaviour other road users would not typically expect”.
Thus, he agreed with the district judge that the “potential harm” was “more than notional”.
Claimed vehicle that swerved to avoid collision was not near his car
When Ma pleaded guilty to his offences at the district court, he agreed to the facts put forth by the prosecution, which mentioned a vehicle having had to “swerve to the left to avoid a collision” with Ma’s car while he was reversing.
Ma’s lawyers argued that the district judge was not right to consider this point as Ma “did not see a vehicle behind his car”, and the vehicle “could not have been in close proximity”.
Hoong dismissed the explanation as a “self-serving argument” as even though Ma might not have noticed the vehicle, it does not necessarily mean that the vehicle was not close to his car.
Argued against “persistent offending” description of 22-year “compounded offences” record
The lawyers also took issue with the district judge “placing excessive weight” on Ma’s driving record by saying he had a “persistent offending over a span of 22 years”.
They argued that the record consists mostly of “compounded offences”.
However, Hoong pointed out that while most of Ma’s driving record was mainly “regulatory offences”, he was sentenced to a S$3,000 fine for drink driving in 2012 and was disqualified from driving for two years.
More recently, Hoong said Ma paid a compounded fine for beating a red-light signal on Nov. 11, 2021, after being charged with the dangerous driving offence.
Need for deterrence: High Court judge
Hoong agreed with the district judge that Ma’s driving record was poor and “highlighted the need for deterrence by way of a sufficiently lengthy disqualification order”.
Hoong also considered precedents highlighted by the lawyers but found that Ma’s disqualification order of 15 months was justified and hence dismissed his appeal.
Top images via screenshot of Grenzenlos – Die Welt Entdecken on Facebook/SuperTree by IndoChine & Facebook/Singapore Police Force