SINGAPORE — A prison inmate was jailed for 10 months on Friday (6 August) for a newer offence of biting off a part of a fellow inmate's left ear during a scuffle while packing coffee sachets in a workshop.
A Changi Prison officer, who stopped the fight, found part of the victim’s ear on the floor at the scene. It could not be stitched back.
The man who caused the permanent disfiguration Teo Chye Lye, pleaded guilty to a charge of voluntarily causing hurt, which turned out to be grievous – though it was not Teo's intention.
Teo, a 56-year-old Singaporean, had been serving his sentence for drug consumption and possession of drug utensils in Changi Prison at the time.
The victim, 53-year-old Lim Lee Yat, was also serving his sentence there.
Argument about work
On 15 December last year, at about 3.10pm, both men were packing coffee sachets at a workshop located at level five of cluster B3 of Changi Prison under the supervision of prison officers.
An argument broke out between the pair after Teo pushed some of the spilled coffee mix to Lim's side of the worktable, resulting in Lim having to do more work.
Teo told Lim not to be so calculative and the dispute escalated when Lim punched Teo in the face.
The accused retaliated by punching Lim. During the fight, Teo bit the upper, outer portion of Lim's left ear, and ripped it off. He also bruised Lim's left eye area.
A prison officer was alerted to the fight by other inmates, and the officer commanded both to stop. The officer then called for help.
The officer later found the bitten-off part of Lim's ear on the floor at the scene, and told medical staff about it.
The victim was sent to Changi General Hospital and a report stated that apart from his bruises, Lim's left ear pinna was completely bitten off and could not be stitched back. The loss of that portion of the ear will be permanent.
Lim was administered a stern warning for causing bruises to Teo.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Gabriel Lim told the court that apart from his drug offences, Teo has a string of violent offences dating back to 1998. These include criminal intimidation in 2016, voluntarily causing hurt in 2014, and voluntarily causing hurt with a weapon in 2002.
The prosecution sought 10 to 15 months' jail for Teo.
Sentences cannot be served concurrently
Mitigating through an interpreter via videolink, Teo said he was already serving a five-year sentence and asked District Judge Tan Jen Tse to back-date his current sentence to 25 June, when he was first charged.
DJ Tan replied that it was not in his power to do so, as Teo's previous sentence was for a distinctly different offence, and the sentences cannot overlap. His current sentence will commence after the completion of his previous sentence.
Sentencing Teo, DJ Tan noted that Lim had suffered permanent disfiguration and the harm caused was serious. He also considered Teo's poor record with regard to violence offences.
For voluntarily causing hurt and causing grievous hurt without intention, Teo could have been jailed up to five years, or fined up to $10,000, or both.
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