Man who drove without licence gets 5 weeks’ jail instead of fine
The boss of a delivery company who never had a valid driving licence but drove on a rainy day to deliver parcels with his wife and three children in tow has had his sentence increased from a fine to five weeks’ jail.
Upon being chased by the police, 33-year-old Rizuwan Rohmat drove to a multi-storey carpark and then ran off, leaving his family inside the van.
In written grounds of decision issued on Friday, the High Court set a benchmark sentence of four weeks’ jail for “archetypal” cases of driving without a valid licence.
Such a case is when the offenders have never held a valid driving licence for the class of vehicles they were driving, and were caught because of police enforcement action, and not because they were involved in an accident.
Justice Kannan Ramesh said this was in line with Parliament’s objective of providing for stronger deterrence against irresponsible driving in passing the Road Traffic (Amendment) Act.
The Act increased the sentencing range for driving without a licence with effect from Nov 1, 2019. A first offender can be fined up to $10,000 and jailed for up to three years, while a repeat offender can be fined up to $20,000 and jailed for up to six years.
Rizuwan had only a provisional driving licence, which is issued to learner drivers. He had failed tests for a Class 3 and a Class 3A licence.
A week before he was caught, all three delivery drivers he employed resigned. Despite this, he continued to accept orders from existing customers.
On the morning of Sept 6, 2020, he drove a van to deliver parcels before returning home in the afternoon to pick up his wife and children for dinner.
He delivered a parcel before exiting into Woodlands Close towards Woodlands Avenue 12. The roads were wet from rain.
On approaching a red light, he collided into a car that had come to a stop. There was minor damage to the car but no one was hurt.
When the car driver pressed him for his driving licence, Rizuwan drove off, and a nearby police car gave chase.
When the police located the van, his family was still inside.
On Aug 2, 2021, he pleaded guilty to a charge of driving without a Class 3 licence, a charge of careless driving, and a charge of driving without insurance coverage.
Two other charges, one for failing to exchange particulars after the accident and one for failing to make a police report, were taken into consideration.
Prosecutors had sought a jail term, arguing that deterrence was essential to protect the public from unlicensed driving.
The district judge imposed a total fine of $9,800 – including $8,000 for driving without a licence – and a two-year driving ban.
The prosecution appealed to the High Court against the $8,000 fine. It also asked the court to give guidance on when the custodial threshold will be crossed for the offence.
Justice Ramesh noted that there is a close connection between offences of driving without a valid licence and driving while under disqualification, which carries a “usual tariff” of between four and eight weeks’ jail.
He set the benchmark at four weeks’ imprisonment for the archetypal case of driving without a licence. The exact sentence will be calibrated in each case depending on factors such as the offender’s reason for driving, the consequences that arose, whether there were other occupants in the vehicle, and whether the offender tried to evade arrest.
Justice Ramesh said Rizuwan’s offence was within the archetypal case as the accident was relatively minor. He said a one-week uplift was warranted, given that Rizuwan drove for a significant distance on a rainy day and endangered four passengers, that minor damage was caused to the car, and that he drove away with his family to evade arrest.
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