"Cabby assault" retrial: Taxi driver 'refused' to turn on meter
A NORWEGIAN man, who is on retrial for allegedly hurting a cabby, told the court yesterday that the taxi driver had refused to switch his taxi meter on.
Instead, the driver had offered a flat fare of $45 for a ride from Boat Quay to Upper East Coast Road.
Testifying on the second day of the trial, Arne Corneliussen, a Singapore permanent resident, said he had lived in Singapore for some time and knew that public taxis were supposed to charge only metered fares.
Corneliussen, 51, recounted the argument between him and taxi driver Chan Chuan Heng, 47, in the early hours of Sept 22 last year: "I said if he doesn't take me on the meter, I will report him."
"I was insisting to go on a meter but he refused... He's a public taxi, he's not a limousine. He got upset and said he's going to go and I said I'm going to report him."
On what happened next, Corneliussen said: "Everything went black and I basically saw stars and I had no idea what happened."
He found himself on the pavement.
Chan had allegedly hit the left side of his face so hard that it was bleeding.
Corneliussen said he could not remember chasing Chan thrice and grabbing him shortly after, as described by eyewitnesses who testified on Monday.
But he remembered that three to four people were behaving aggressively towards him later on, with one man telling him: "You're going to leave Singapore in a coffin."
Feeling unsafe, he left the area and went home. But his wife called the police when he told her he had been attacked by a taxi driver.
He was later taken to a hospital and found to have bruising and abrasions at the corner of his left eye, as well as a possible bone fracture near his wrist. He was prescribed painkillers and anti-inflammatories.
In December last year, Corneliussen was charged with hurting Chan. The police had witness statements supporting the cabby's account that Corneliussen had chased him and placed him in a chokehold.
The Norwegian pleaded guilty earlier this year to using his arms to strangle Chan's neck. He had scant recollection of the incident.
He was sentenced to 10 weeks' jail in April for causing hurt. A district court judge agreed with the prosecution that Corneliussen's assault on a public transport worker was "sustained and brutish". A charge of slapping the cabby on his cheek was taken into consideration during sentencing.
Corneliussen, who paid Chan $30,000 in compensation, lost his job as a programme management director with multinational logistics company DHL shortly after he was charged. He is still unemployed.
After he was convicted and sentenced, however, two eyewitnesses who read a newspaper report on the case sought out his lawyer Terence Seah. They said they had seen the altercation and that Chan was the actual aggressor.
They then filed affidavits on their account of what happened.
In May, the High Court quashed Corneliussen's conviction and sentence and sent the case back to the State Courts for a retrial. He was released on $5,000 bail.
His charge was also amended to causing hurt by wrapping his arm around Chan's neck.
Chan has since been charged with causing hurt and with lying to police that Corneliussen slapped him. His case is before the courts.
Earlier yesterday, in the defence's opening statement, Mr Seah said there was no hurt caused to Chan's neck and he never made any medical complaints about it.
There was, moreover, uncertainty as to whether Corneliussen had wrapped an arm around Chan's neck, given the differing eyewitness accounts.
Corneliussen was also justified in using reasonable means to detain Chan, who was running away after assaulting him.
And Corneliussen did not punch or attack the driver in retaliation, even though he was provoked by a punch to the head, Mr Seah added.
District Judge Hamidah Ibrahim will deliver the verdict for Corneliussen's case on Feb 12 next year.
The maximum penalty for causing hurt is two years' jail and a fine of $5,000. The maximum penalty for giving false information to the police is a year in jail and a fine of $5,000.