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SINGAPORE: After being driven to his destination, a man refused to pay his taxi fare on three different occasions and pushed the drivers when they confronted him for payment.

Tan Wee Ming, 33, was jailed for five weeks on Friday (Jun 17) after pleading guilty to two counts of criminal force and one count of assault.

He admitted to using force against three taxi drivers in 2018, 2019 and 2020. Two more charges were considered for sentencing.

On Aug 26, 2018, Tan and a friend took a ride from the first victim, a 63-year-old taxi driver, at Sultan Plaza.

They headed first to Toh Tuck Road to drop Tan’s friend off. Tan alighted and chatted with his friend for a short while before boarding the taxi again.

The driver then took Tan to his destination at Ang Mo Kio Avenue 3. Upon arrival, the driver woke Tan up and asked him to pay the fare of S$42 based on the taxi meter.

Tan refused to pay as “he felt it was too expensive to be correct”, alighted from the taxi and walked away, said Deputy Public Prosecutor Benedict Teong.

When the driver confronted him, Tan pushed him on his shoulder, causing him to stumble backwards and almost fall.

The driver called the police after Tan walked away. He was given three days’ medical leave after seeking medical attention for pain in his shoulder.

Police located Tan at a nearby coffee shop on the same day and placed him under investigation.

The second incident happened on Mar 23, 2019. Tan refused to pay his full fare of S$14.20 a taxi ride to Block 133 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 3, as he claimed that he had told the driver to drop him off at Block 130 instead.

The 57-year-old victim had heard Tan saying that he wanted to go to Block 133, and noted that Tan reeked of alcohol. Block 130 was 50m away from where the taxi was, and the driver refused to accept partial payment.

When Tan alighted without making any payment, the victim got out of the taxi and positioned himself in front of Tan to stop him from leaving. Tan then pushed him.

In the third incident on Jan 10, 2020, Tan told a 58-year-old taxi driver he had to get money from his flat as he did not have any on him.

The driver asked Tan to leave his belongings behind since he should be coming back, but Tan refused to do so and left.

The victim followed Tan and tried to use his mobile phone to take a photo of him. Tan suddenly stepped towards the victim with his hands outstretched to snatch the phone away.

Seeing this, the victim stepped backwards and lost his balance. He fell on his knee, suffering a small cut and a tear in his jeans. 

On all three occasions, Tan acted without grave and sudden provocation from the victims, said Mr Teong.

The first victim was offered S$62 for his medical fees and the taxi fare, but he refused to accept this as he felt Tan should also pay for his loss of earnings and taxi rental during his medical leave.

The second victim refused to accept restitution.

The prosecution sought the jail term that was imposed, highlighting that the offences involved violence against a public transport worker, and that Tan was previously also jailed for a similar offence.

“The accused has shown himself to be a recalcitrant offender who was unrehabilitated and undeterred by his previous jail term,” said Mr Teong.

Defence lawyer Chua Hock Lu argued that Tan’s present offences showed “some measure of de-escalation” from his previous offence, and asked for a shorter sentence of 15 days.

But the prosecution disagreed, arguing that Tan could not be given credit for “resorting to violence at the end of the day”.

“If there was any restraint on the accused’s part, I do not see it,” said District Judge Wong Li Tein.

“Public transport workers deal with a big variety of people on a daily basis and should not have to suffer passengers who take them for a free ride, then turn violent when payment is demanded.”

The judge also ordered Tan to pay S$14.80 in compensation to the third victim.

The penalty for assaulting or using criminal force on a person without grave and sudden provocation is up to three months’ jail, a fine of up to S$1,500 or both.