SINGAPORE — While hobbling towards the lift with a walking stick, a man partially paralysed from a stroke became angry at a woman who failed to hold the lift door for him.
After a tense exchange in the lift over the incident, Seo Chye Sin and the victim – a 46-year-old Thai national – went out into the lift lobby and fought, with Seo pushing the woman on her upper chest forcefully.
Seo, 51, was fined $3,750 on Tuesday (27 October), after he pleaded guilty to one count each of voluntarily causing hurt and using criminal force on the woman, who is a Singapore permanent resident. He had one count of molesting the woman taken into consideration for sentencing.
Seo had suffered from a stroke and was admitted to the National University Hospital in 2016. The stroke caused partial paralysis to the left side of his body, restricting the use of his left arm.
Due to his condition, Seo finds it difficult to find employment and has not held a job since the stroke, said his lawyer Terence Seah from Virtus Law. Seo’s wife earns $1,000 a month to support the family, including two children aged 15 and 21.
Background of incident
On 27 January last year, at about 7pm, Seo was at the ground floor of a HDB block at Choa Chu Kang Avenue 2 when the victim entered the lift before him. As he walked to the lift with his walking stick, Seo asked the victim to wait for him. However the victim pressed the button for the fourth floor and the lift doors began to close.
Seo reached the lift at this point and held his walking stick out to the doors to prevent them from closing. He then entered the lift and pressed the button for the 15th floor. Turning to the victim, he then asked why the woman did not open the doors for him and the two argued.
The lift failed to stop at the fourth floor, causing the victim to press for her floor again. Seo then asked her to “press harder lah” and the duo began glaring at each other.
When the lift arrived at Seo’s floor, he exited but prevented the lift doors from closing, asking the victim “What do you want?” He approached the victim, who held up her hands to prevent him from touching her. The pair then moved out of the lift and got into a brief scuffle, where both Seo’s walking stick and the victim’s mobile phone fell to the ground.
Seo pushed the victim on her upper chest. The victim then pushed Seo away to pick up her mobile phone, but Seo punched her head a few times, causing her to shout for help. At this point, Seo’s wife and son heard the commotion and separated the two. The woman called for a friend who stayed in the block to call the police.
Seeking medical attention the next day, the victim was diagnosed with a bruise over her right eyebrow.
Personal circumstances generally not mitigatory
Citing Seo’s medical condition, Seah sought for a fine of $1,800 for his client.
“He did not let his unfortunate circumstances deter him and during his in-patient rehabilitation, not only did he concentrate on maximising his recovery during the period, he voluntarily spoke to other patients to help motivate them in their rehabilitation as well,” said the lawyer. Seo was invited to the National University Hospital a year after his condition occurred to speak to and motivate others in similar circumstances.
Seo’s actions were observed by a senior physiotherapist, who submitted a letter to court testifying to Seo’s good character and positivity in the face of his challenges.
However Deputy Public Prosecutor Kathy Chu noted that personal circumstances were generally not mitigatory unless exceptional.
The prosecution sought a fine of at least $4,800, citing Seo’s aggression towards the woman.
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