Thursday, June 14, 2012

Crime and Punishment

[Note: This is a revised version of my initial post. I had stated in that post that Dr Wu had paid someone to take the rap. I have been informed this is incorrect, and no payment was made. I am sorry for the error and have corrected it in this post.]

I must admit I was surprised by the fine of $1,000 imposed on Woffles Wu.

Such offences are undoubtedly serious, as they seek to undermine the course of justice. Others who have committed similar offences have been jailed. I do not know what the Judge took into account in making his decision, and I accept that no two cases are the same. However, I hope there will be an opportunity for the court to explain its reasons and how other cases where jail terms were imposed were distinguished. That will promote transparency and confidence in our legal system, and deal with allegations of unfair treatment, which have already appeared on the net.

I believe that part of the problem is that most times, the law gives judges very little discretion in sentencing - it is usually a fine or jail or both. There may be occasions where a fine is too lenient, while jail may be too harsh. Further, if an offender cannot pay a fine, jail is the default. That creates two problems - it discriminates between those can pay and those who cannot; and it converts a light punishment to a heavy one.

I would prefer if the court had more flexibility in sentencing so that the punishment truly fits the crime. For example, where a person gets another to take the rap for a traffic offence to preserve his driving licence, wouldn't a more appropriate punishment be to suspend his licence? Inflict on the offender what he was trying by criminal means to avoid. Likewise for less serious cases of vandalism, get the offender to clean up more than he has damaged.


  1. Dear Sir,

    I think you have left out an important clue for such punishment.

    Indeed Woffles has committed the crime in 2005 and 2006 but the law for higher punishment was amended in 2008.

    "The Penal Code was amended in 2008 to make providing misleading information to the traffic police a more serious offence."

    That is my speculation to the lower sentence compared to

  2. Agree fully with MP Hri's comments.

  3. Thanks George.

    The law was amended. But I believe that the old law also provided for a jail term and not just a fine. In any event, if that is what influenced the Court, then it would be good if it has the opportunity to say so. That is part of the process and provides a body of law for future cases to draw on.

    But it does not detract from the main point of my post - the need for more flexibility in sentencing.

  4. I understand from today's ST that the case is apparently not over yet and that some sort of 'probe' is still ongoing.

    Can you throw some light on this? What more is there to 'probe' when the case has already gone to court and sentence passed?

    Is this the way the govt tries to cover up an obviously biased (in favour of WW) judgement?

    Good to hear your views.

  5. For using his wife's IC for admission to the casino, Xu Zhao He was fined $3,000. And that is a self-imposed casino ban. Thank goodness the two-month prison sentence was quashed. Now, for cheating the system and getting another person to admit to the offence, Woffles was fined $1,000. Where is the sense of justice and fair play?


    It took New Media and admirable netizens like Mr Andrew Loh to do this exposé. That's why I don't read ST anymore.

  7. Gary, there is no cause to jump to conclusions of a cover up. The offence of giving false particulars has been dealt with. From what I read, there remains the speeding offences. The person answerable will be the driver. The presumption is that it is the owner of the vehicle (who is assume is WW), unless he declares otherwise. His first declaration was false - and so he now has to say who it really was. So, let the process takes its proper course.

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  8. The whole thing is linked isn't it, one led to the other - giving false particulars and the speeding offences - so why were they dealt with separately?

  9. I read an interesting on the ground perspective here :

    Many people are perplexed by the ruling and appear to link it to connections and unfortunately back to the PAP.

    For justice to be served, a sentence should be fair AND should be SEEN TO BE FAIR. This has not been the case here.

    And if this is a fraud (isn't it?), then the medical council is bound to step in and censure him for doing things unethically and contravening the docs' ethical code. (available on if this doesn't happen then really this fellow is living in some rarefied heaven where penalties do not apply to him! Where is the fairness?

  10. Dear MP Nair,

    I applaud you for your efforts on the Woffles Wu case and in retrospect, am glad that as a young MP, you show your leadership. The fact that Woffles is a highly educated person, for him to come up with such a plan, a heavier sentence should have been imposed.

    In this respect, I am wondering what international law practitioners would think of Singapore as an International Arbitration Centre.

    I feel that we have lost in fairness here. But am glad that at least you have bothered to come forward. If I ever move to your constituency, I will definitely cast my vote for you.

    1. Comparison of similar case :

      Of course, every case is different and we are not in a position to judge. However, the sentiment on the ground is that those who are wealthy and powerful will get away with murder (figuratively).

      The next hop skip and jump will be the common man's perception that the PAP is in a similarly powerful position and can get away with anything. This is a unfortunate and unfair inference about the government, and could be avoided if Woffles Wu were not seen to have been let off so lightly by the establishment.

  11. There is another case today that shows the inconsistency in punishment by our courts. This guy was given four months' jail for having sex with a minor whereas the ex-principal who committed a similar offence was given only six weeks.

  12. Dear Mr. Hri Kumar,

    What you mentioned in your last paragraph" court had more flexibility in sentencing so that the punishment truly fits the crime. ...... Likewise for less serious cases of vandalism, get the offender to clean up more than he has damaged." I agree totally and respect your wise judgement.


    Jasoel Lei Xu Le

  13. Dear Mr Kumar,

    this issue has certainly caused a lot of furore among the common man on the street.

    Even Law Minister and AGC have weighed in to clarify in the past 2 days.
    And in fact have made it even clearer that some sort of miscarriage of justice may have occurred.

    Among other questions, a major question needs to be asked :

    *Why did AGC proceed only on the lowly charge of abetment? *

    There should be little question who is responsible for the filling up of the LTA summons (even if it was not his own hand). LTA will send a summons direct to the home of the car owner, ie. Dr Wu. Dr Wu would then be responsible for filling the form up and sending it back to LTA.

    It is BEYOND REASON to understand how an elderly technician working at his clinic suddenly gets a hold of this summons, and decides to fill up his own name into it. Oh come on, even a child knows the truth of what happened.

    Law minister alluded to this when he wrote "Dr Wu didn't give the info and could not be charged directly for giving false info." It implies that the AGC had its hands tied because Dr Wu claimed that someone else (ie. Kuan, not him) filled out the form. AGC then was forced to proceed on the lower abetment charge.

    This is hence a criticism of either the AGC or the police in investigating this and formulating a more appropriate charge that is congruent with common sense.

    Justice is to be done AND HAS TO BE SEEN TO BE DONE.

    Dr Wu as a respected (perhaps 'was') member of the medical fraternity is now seen as a spoilt brat who tried to wriggle himself out of a tight situation by fraudulently getting a vulnerable person to take the rap for him. He has brought shame to himself, his family and his fellow doctors by indulging in a dishonorable crime. (perhaps you should ask the other doctor Ministers and MPs what they think and what the medical council thinks of these shenanigans)

    AGC should appeal or reopen the case and charge more appropriately rather than just trying to defend repeatedly their original, conveniently formulated charge. The police could have done more investigation as questioned the staff at the clinic and the relatives of Mr Kuan, to ascertain if Dr Wu asked Mr Kuan to take the rap for him.

    Can AGC do so?

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