Maserati driver who dragged cop during escape bid banned from driving for life, jailed, fined

Maserati driver Lee Cheng Yan arriving at State Courts on 24 November 2017. Photo: Hannah Teoh/Yahoo News Singapore
Maserati driver Lee Cheng Yan arriving at State Courts on 24 November 2017. Photo: Hannah Teoh/Yahoo News Singapore

SINGAPORE — A Maserati driver who dragged a police officer more than 100 metres while trying to escape him has been jailed four years and seven months, fined $3,700, and given a lifetime ban from driving on Tuesday (28 July).

Lee Cheng Yan, 36, had blamed the offence on a phantom driver by the name of “Kelvin”, who was never produced in court.

The prosecution sought at least four years and nine months’ jail for Lee, citing his long history of road traffic offences, including for driving while under disqualification in 2001. He was jailed two months and banned from driving for 10 years for these offences.

In July 2017, Lee was disqualified another nine months after being convicted of negligently causing hurt to a motorcyclist while driving his Maserati car.

Within nine months however, Lee committed the present set of offences, clearly showing no regard for the law, said the prosecution.

The prosecution sought a lifetime disqualification order for Lee whom they described as a “menace on the roads”, in addition to the jail term.

It took into consideration the injuries suffered by the police officer, who was given 21 days of hospitalisation leave. The back injury has had a lasting impact on the victim, who continues to feel pain on his lower back when carrying heavy loads.

As a result of the pain, the police officer has had to be downgraded and exempted from certain police duties, derailing his career, according to the prosecution.

Lee had also displayed a “shocking level of callousness” in failing to stop while the officer had been dragged at a high speed of 79 to 84kmh for about 124m.

Lee’s lawyer S Balamurugan sought a jail term of not more than two years and a high fine with an appropriate disqualification period from driving.

He told the court that Lee, a father of twin girls aged one year and nine months, has been diagnosed with adjustment disorder with anxious and depressed mood, gambling disorder, and alcohol use disorder.

His daughters are currently in Japan and Lee has not seen them since they were six months old, the lawyer said.

Lee, who is self-employed, stays with his ailing parents and an elder brother, who has intellectual disability and behavioural problems.

“(Lee) has been portrayed as one who is willing to go to any lengths to avoid responsibility for his crimes. To the contrary, (he) has attended all interviews conducted by the police and did not abscond Singapore prior to, during or after his trial,” said Balamurugan.

The lawyer raised the media scrutiny on Lee’s case as a mitigating factor, as Lee’s character and reputation had been “severely tarnished” by news and social media outlets which named him as the driver during the two years prior to his conviction.

“He has undergone torment beyond just shame and embarrassment,” added the lawyer.

The seizure of Lee’s Maserati has also caused a great financial loss to Lee, who bought it for $175,000. The car was impounded less than a month later, and past its COE expiry date on 10 June this year.

On the offence, Balamurugan said that it was pertinent to note how the police officer came to be dragged, and that the accident was not a head on collision.

The car had been driven at a speed only 19kmh above the speed limit, added the lawyer.

Details of the case

Lee was convicted on 10 charges after a trial. These are: causing grievous hurt to a public servant, driving under disqualification, driving without insurance, failing to wear a seat belt, failing to stop when ordered by a policeman, failing to provide personal particulars after an accident, failing to render help after an accident, moving a vehicle after an accident, driving rashly, and obstructing the course of justice.

On 17 November 2017, Lee left home and drove his Maserati to Bedok Reservoir Road just before 9pm. He was under a nine-month driving ban at the time.

At about 9.20pm, Lee drove along Bedok Reservoir Road toward Eunos Link. A traffic policeman on a patrol motorcycle saw Lee not wearing his seat belt and signalled for the driver to stop, but Lee did not comply.

As traffic came to a stop at the signalised traffic junction of Bedok Reservoir Road and Jalan Damai, the police officer stopped his bike in front of the Maserati with his blinker lights switched on.

The staff sergeant then dismounted and went up to the driver’s window of the Maserati to tell Lee to pull over to the side of the road.

Instead of complying, Lee fled by suddenly reversing the Maserati before accelerating quickly forward while the policeman was standing next to the driver-seat door. The officer’s uniform was caught on the driver-side door of the Maserati and he was dragged along with the moving vehicle.

Lee drove at speeds of between 79kmh and 84kmh for 124 metres with the officer hanging on to the car’s driver-side door. The cop eventually dislodged from the car and rolled onto the ground before passers-by went to his aid.

As Lee fled the scene, an eyewitness pursued him on a motorcycle. Lee purportedly drove rashly, beating two red lights, overtaking vehicles without signalling, and even driving against the flow of traffic.

Lee then abandoned his car along Willow Avenue near MacPherson Road. He called a friend to pick him up before heading to another friend’s home.

While there, Lee disposed of the white T-shirt he was wearing down the rubbish chute in order to evade police detection.

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