7 weeks' jail for man who beat two red lights, drove against flow of traffic in search of toilet

Block 343 Jurong East Street 31 (PHOTO: Screenshot from Google Street View)
Block 343 Jurong East Street 31 (PHOTO: Screenshot from Google Street View)

SINGAPORE — A man with a bowel condition felt the urgent need to relieve himself while on the highway in the wee hours of the morning.

Desperate, Hoo Tee Tuan then sped towards his destination – his elder brother’s 24-hour coffeeshop – beating two red lights and going against the flow of traffic twice, hitting a speed of 180kmh at one point.

A police officer who spotted his reckless driving chased Hoo until the latter finally came to a stop at the entrance to the carpark at Block 343 Jurong East 31.

For driving in a rash manner and for failing to stop when instructed by a traffic police officer, Hoo, 57, was jailed seven weeks and disqualified from driving for four years on Wednesday (6 January). He pleaded guilty to both charges in the State Courts.

His lawyer, Lim Soo Peng, told the court that his client had been suffering from irritable bowel syndrome for at least a year before the incident and was likely having an episode during the time of his offences on 1 March last year, causing him to drive the way he did. When the condition struck, his client would be in “immense pain” and would need to relieve himself immediately.

Stomach pain hit while driving home from MBS

Hoo was driving home to Jurong from the casino at Marina Bay Sands at about 3am and was on the Pan Island Expressway when the stomach pain hit. According to the prosecution, he then travelled at a high speed when he exited towards Jurong Canal Drive.

Footage from Hoo’s in-car camera was played in court, showing him slowing down behind a van due to roadworks. After passing it, he accelerated, attracting the attention of uniformed traffic police officer Syafa’at Abdul Rahman, who switched on his blinkers and followed Hoo.

Syafa’at tried to stop Hoo, but Hoo did not stop, and sped at 180kmh instead before turning left into Jurong Canal Drive, with the traffic police trailing him.

Hoo then turned into Jurong East Avenue 1 and beat a red light signal at the junction of Jurong East Avenue 1 and Jurong East Street 32. He beat a second red light when making a right turn into Jurong East Street 32 towards Boon Lay Way.

After travelling on the right lane of Jurong East Street 31, Hoo made a right turn towards the carpark of Block 317 Jurong East Street 31. He stopped halfway during the turn and proceeded to drive against the flow of traffic towards Boon Lay Way.

He then crossed a centre divider and drove in the right direction towards Boon Lay Way. He accelerated before crossing double white lines and making a left turn into Boon Lay Way towards Commonwealth Avenue West.

He sped at about 150kmh before making a left turn into Jurong East Avenue 1 towards Jurong West Avenue 1. Hoo went against the flow of traffic again after making a left turn into Jurong East Street 31 towards Boon Lay Way.

He then tried to enter the carpark of Block 343 Jurong East 31 but stopped as his way was blocked by a taxi. This was when the traffic police finally caught up to him.

Medical condition not valid reason for serious dangerous driving

Citing the dangerous manner of Hoo’s driving, Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Deborah Lee sought a jail term of two months and a disqualification period of four years.

While the DPP acknowledged that Hoo’s medical condition may have caused him to drive in such a manner, it was not a valid reason to drive in a manner that posed serious danger to other road users.

Since Hoo had been suffering from the condition for a year, he should have been well-placed to deal with it, said the DPP. Hoo could have also stopped along the road or chose a place that was not his brother’s coffeeshop, which was a distance away, added the DPP.

Mitigating for his client, Lim submitted a letter from Hoo’s son who said that his father neglected his health while focused on being the breadwinner for the family and suffered from the “digestive issue” as a result. When the family ate outside, his father had to immediately use the toilet when hit by the pain, which was “immense”, according to the son.

Lim also submitted medical reports about Hoo’s condition. One of these, dated June 2019, stated that Hoo had the problem of abdominal bloating and frequency of passing loose stools since at least a year prior.

Another clinical report dated 15 May 2019 stated that Hoo had been seen for irritable bowel syndrome and another condition where he experienced periodic gastric pain and diarrhoea.

“Hoo is really sorry for what happened, he is contrite and remorseful and has rendered full cooperation to traffic police,” said the lawyer.

“He had no intention to evade police apprehension, this was an urgent urge to ease himself. In fact after he was stopped by the police, the police had to line the backseat of police car before he was allowed to enter it, and he was (in the station) asked to clean and wash himself before he was interviewed.”

The lawyer added that there were few vehicles on the road at the point in time and no pedestrians were evident from the videos showed.

Asked by District Judge Christopher Goh whether Hoo should have been driving when suffering from his condition, Lim said, “I think he learned his lesson. I think he has decided not to drive after today.”

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