24 April 2018
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Criminal law, procedure & sentencing feed-image   

Judge acquits man of assaulting condo neighbour

Straits Times
14 Apr 2018
K.C. Vijayan

A judge acquitted a condo resident charged with assaulting another, ruling that the force he used was not criminal but in self-defence.

District Judge Eddy Tham also said that even if he was wrong in his judgment, the harm caused was so minor as to brook no offence.

"I found that, based on the principle... as encoded in Section 95 of the Penal Code, the harm caused is so minuscule or slight that no person of ordinary sense and temper would complain of such harm," he added in judgment grounds on Monday.

The accused, condo resident Chan Siew Yin, 53, had admitted to thrusting a wooden stick at fellow resident Lee Gek Leng and kicking him with his right leg, as shown by video footage at the trial.

The spat occurred on June 25, 2016, just before 10pm outside the third-floor unit of a Jalan Loyang Besar condo block where Mr Chan lived and where Mr Lee, who lived directly below on the ground floor, had gone to confront him - allegedly for littering outside his flat and for shouting abuse at Mr Lee's wife and mother.

Video footage taken by Mr Chan's son showed Mr Chan facing Mr Lee through an open door with a thick plastic sheet separating them. Mr Lee stood outside while Mr Chan was inside, holding a stick that he thrust at his neighbour.

Mr Lee challenged him to come out. As the spat escalated, he entered the house, charged at Mr Chan and grabbed the stick.

Police arriving shortly after found Mr Lee pinned down by Mr Chan on a sofa and both shouting at each other. Police seized the stick and broke up the pair.

The court noted the charge was based on what had happened outside Mr Chan's door and not inside.

Mr Chan, defended by lawyers Eugene Thuraisingam, Teo Sher Min and Chooi Jing Yen, pointed to past run-ins between the duo.

These began in 2010 when Mr Chan suspected that Mr Lee had splashed black paint on his front door and the lift lobby area. Among other things, screen grabs showed Mr Lee throwing balls of newspaper from inside a lift to the outside of Mr Chan's unit, which he said he did out of anger and revenge.

Mr Chan recounted these incidents to show his frame of mind when his neighbour came to confront him at the door.

The judge found Mr Chan's action to be a reasonable response to Mr Lee, who was spewing Hokkien vulgarities and "advancing menacingly" towards him.

The judge said Mr Lee was clearly the aggressor at that stage and Mr Chan was "merely exercising his right of self-defence to prevent someone unwelcome from illegally trespassing his home".

The prosecution, represented by Deputy Public Prosecutors Andre Chong and Rachel Tan, argued that Mr Chan wanted to escalate the situation when he opened the door and held out the stick, when he ought to have kept the door shut, as he had already called the police.

The district judge disagreed, holding that the numerous past incidents Mr Chan experienced meant he had a genuine fear Mr Lee would cause harm to his property, if allowed to remain at the front door.

"As the saying goes, hindsight is 20/20, meaning it is easy to know what the right thing to do is after something has happened," he said.

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.