Fatal Bionix incident: SAF captain appeals to overturn conviction for rash act
Source: Straits Times
Article Date: 29 Apr 2023
Author: Selina Lum
Ong Lin Jie, who was given five months’ jail, appealed to the High Court on Friday to overturn his conviction.
A Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) captain, who was given five months’ jail for a rash act that led to the death of a full-time national serviceman during a training exercise in 2018, on Friday appealed to the High Court to overturn his conviction.
Ong Lin Jie, 31, was convicted by a district judge in November 2021. A regular officer and platoon trainer with the Armour Unit Training Centre, he has been suspended from service.
He had been deployed to observe and evaluate the crew of the Bionix armoured vehicle during an exercise on Nov 3, 2018. He followed them in a Land Rover driven by Corporal First Class (CFC) Liu Kai.
At one point, he ordered CFC Liu to overtake the stationary Bionix, putting the two vehicles within the 30m safety distance.
The Bionix then reversed and mounted the Land Rover, killing the 22-year-old driver. Ong escaped through the window on the passenger side.
In a trial that began in March 2021, Ong contested a charge of causing CFC Liu’s death by a rash act.
The prosecution argued that Ong acted rashly by giving the order to overtake without first establishing communications with the Bionix, as it was obvious that there was a risk that the armoured vehicle would encounter its opponents in the exercise and would need to reverse as part of the drill.
On Friday, the prosecution appealed for a longer jail term of nine months, while Ong’s lawyers submitted an expert report as they appealed against his conviction and sentence.
Ong’s lawyer, Mr R. Thrumurgan, argued that Ong’s failure to keep a 30m safety distance by ordering the overtaking of the Bionix cannot be considered the cause of the accident.
He argued that there were contributory causes, such as the driver of the Bionix making an “unexpected” steer to the left while reversing and the failure of the Bionix driver to hear the command to stop owing to an intercom malfunction.
Mr Thrumurgan submitted an expert forensic report by Mr Grant Johnston and argued that the incident would likely still have happened even if Ong had kept the 30m safety distance.
In the report, Mr Johnston extrapolated the trajectory of the Bionix and concluded that it would have continued reversing and most likely would still have run over the Land Rover.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Hay Hung Chun countered that the defence should not be “tilting at windmills” or making straw man arguments.
He said the district judge was correct to find that Ong’s rash act was the cause of the incident.
The DPP argued that the assumptions underlying Mr Johnston’s conclusion were speculative or false.
For instance, he said the expert erroneously assumed that if the Land Rover was 30m away from the Bionix, it would have remained stationary the entire time while the armoured vehicle was reversing.
He added that it was incorrect to characterise the Bionix as having reversed in a “leftward direction”, as a review of the aerial animation of the armoured vehicle’s movement showed it had been reversing in a straight line.
In seeking a longer jail term, the DPP said the district judge was wrong to giving mitigating weight to the fact that Ong had been subjected to “relatively the same risk” as the victim.
He argued that the fact that Ong was also in the same vehicle had no bearing on the degree of his rashness and was not a mitigating factor.
Justice See Kee Oon will give his decision at a later date.
Source: Straits Times © SPH Media Limited. Permission required for reproduction.