17 September 2006

Luckily, She Missed The Train

Sunday Times, Sep 17, 2006
Scholar charged with attempted murder
Man accused of pushing ex-girlfriend off platform said to be depressed at the time

By Selina Lum

AN ASEAN scholarship holder with a double degree possibly faces a lifetime in jail for allegedly attempting to murder his former girlfriend by pushing her off a train platform.

Kwong Kok Hing, 26, was yesterday charged with intending to kill Miss Low Siew Mui, 26, on Thursday evening by pushing her onto the train tracks at Clementi MRT station.

The court was also told that Kwong, a Singapore permanent resident from Malaysia, has been suffering from depression.

Kwong's lawyer told District Judge Marvin Bay that he has been undergoing psychiatric treatment at Raffles Hospital.

Mr Shashi Nathan also said Kwong's psychiatrist had suggested that he was suffering from 'reactive psychosis' at the time of the station incident. Reactive psychosis is a sudden display of psychotic behaviour prompted by a stressful event.

As he stood in the dock yesterday, the bespectacled man seemed nervous, occasionally glancing at his parents in the public gallery.

They had travelled here from Petaling Jaya earlier this week because of his depression. They declined to speak to reporters.

Kwong, the eldest of three children, came to Singapore as an Asean scholarship holder. He studied at the National University of Singapore and worked at a local bank.

He is believed to have suffered depression because of relationship problems.

Kwong is accused of pushing Miss Low on the back with both his hands. His action caused her to fall onto the tracks and into the path of an oncoming west-bound train, it is alleged.

Police had studied footage from a CCTV camera which captured the incident.

Miss Low narrowly escaped death. She picked herself up and ran to the other side of the tracks when she realised the platform was too high for her to climb up in time.

She managed to steady herself as the train whizzed past her. She suffered cuts and bruises to her arms and legs from the fall.

Several commuters caught Kwong and pinned him down until police arrived.

If convicted of attempted murder, Kwong faces life imprisonment and caning. He has been remanded at the Institute of Mental Health for psychiatric examination and will return to court on Sept 29.
When I was a DPP, my favourite kind of case was where I was convinced that the criminal had done a very bad thing and was an utterly wicked, evil person. Then I could step into court, hold nothing back and prosecute him to the best of my ability. Which is to say, mercilessly.

I used to call these cases the "Evil Mosquito" cases. The reason is that I feel only glee, and no remorse whatsoever, whenever I smack a mosquito and turn it into a dead, disgusting splotch of blood. I got the same feeling in court, whenever I had to prosecute anyone who, in my view, deserved the very worst that the law could possibly do to him.

In reality, however, "Evil Mosquito" cases are very rare. In fact, they were so rare that I eventually quit the DPP job - for I felt compassion for criminals much more often than I felt distaste. The biggest lesson I learned from my DPP days is that criminals are human beings, just like you and me. Alter a few key factors or events in the story of your life, and you might jolly well have become a criminal too. A sad story often lies behind the act of some apparently nasty criminal.

Take the case of Kwong Kok Hing. From his profile, it's quite unlikely that he has ever committed any other serious offence in his life. Now on that fateful day, if things had happened differently - for example, if his girlfriend had said, "Let's break up, goodbye, I'm flying off tomorrow" and then just left the country without telling him where she was going - Kwong would have wallowed in his depression for six months, maybe he would have gotten some pills and counselling, and then he'd recover and life would just move on.

Hey, many of us have been dumped, in the stories of our respective lives - it hurts, but we recover and we move on too. In time, we look at our earlier romances and we might even think, "Thank goodness she dumped me. Boy, were we NOT compatible."

But no, she and him had to be there, at the MRT station, and he had to say THAT to her, and she had to say THAT to him, and then they just had to be standing THERE, and in that split second, he had to do THAT incredibly dumb thing ..... and now, he faces life imprisonment. While she's probably suffering from post-traumatic stress- disorderly recurring nightmares every night, of being squashed by an oncoming train.

By the way, that Siew Mui lady - good, sharp thinking in a situation of life & death. To have the presence of mind to run to the other side of the track. I think many others in her shoes would have panicked and screamed and kept jumping and trying to get up the platform.

I'll be tracking this case because I'm interested to see how the "reactive psychosis" defence holds up in court.

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Anonymous said...

haha, something about lawyers :D

How many lawyers does it take to change a lightbulb?

“Such number as may be deemed necessary to perform the stated task in a timely and efficient manner within the strictures of the following agreement: Whereas the party of the first part, also known as "The Lawyer," and the party of the second part, also known as "The Light Bulb," do hereby and forthwith agree to a transaction wherein the party of the second part (Light Bulb) shall be removed from the current position as a result of failure to perform previously agreed upon duties, i.e., the lighting, elucidation, and otherwise illumination of the area ranging from the front (north) door, through the entry way, terminating at an area just inside the primary living area, demarcated by the beginning of the carpet, any spill-over illumination being at the option of the party of the second part (Light Bulb) and not required by the aforementioned agreement between the parties. The aforementioned removal transaction shall include, but not be limited to, the following steps: The party of the first part (Lawyer) shall, with or without elevation at his option, by means of a chair, step stool, ladder or any other means of elevation, grasp the party of the second part (Light Bulb) and rotate the party of the second part (Light Bulb) in a counter-clockwise direction, said direction being non-negotiable. Said grasping and rotation of the party of the second part (Light Bulb) shall be undertaken by the party of the first part (Lawyer) with every possible caution by the party of the first part (Lawyer) to maintain the structural integrity of the party of the second part (Light Bulb), notwithstanding the aforementioned failure of the party of the second part (Light Bulb) to perform the aforementioned customary and agreed upon duties. The foregoing notwithstanding, however, both parties stipulate that structural failure of the party of the second part (Light Bulb) may be incidental to the aforementioned failure to perform and in such case the party of the first part (Lawyer) shall be held blameless for such structural failure insofar as this agreement is concerned so long as the non-negotiable directional codicil (counter-clockwise) is observed by the party of the first part (Lawyer) throughout.

Upon reaching a point where the party of the second part (Light Bulb) becomes separated from the party of the third part ("Receptacle"), the party of the first part (Lawyer) shall have the option of disposing of the party of the second part (Light Bulb) in a manner consistent with all applicable state, local and federal statutes. Once separation and disposal have been achieved, the party of the first part (Lawyer) shall have the option of beginning installation of the party of the fourth part ("New Light Bulb"). This installation shall occur in a manner consistent with the reverse of the procedures described in step one of this self-same document, being careful to note that the rotation should occur in a clockwise direction, said direction also being non-negotiable.

NOTE: The above described steps may be performed, at the option of the party of the first part (Lawyer), by said party of the first part (Lawyer), by his heirs and assigns, or by any and all persons authorized by him to do so, the objective being to produce a level of illumination in the immediate vicinity of the aforementioned front (north) door consistent with maximization of ingress and revenue for the party of the fifth part.”

Anonymous said...

Seem very confusing argument & too chim to understand. What exactly are u trying to say? Pls explain in laymen terms if what your viewpoint to be understood by others.

Anonymous said...

anon, hes trying to say that not all criminals are vicious murderers deserving only of life imprisonment or death penalty.. many of these people have no past criminal records and were just impulsive at the spur of the moment, having been dealt with such a shocking situation, making them seem like crazy heartless criminals..
furthermore, the kwong guy is not well, surely the law will take that into consideration? no? and maybe give him a lighter sentence?

Anonymous said...

Do you guys even get the joke in the first place? HAHAHAHAHA! Totally good joke

Joseph Chiang said...

Two questions.

1) What if the girl was your daughter?

2) What if the boy was your son?

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

Ah. Here's a more drastic form of the question:

What if you were Katherine Horton's mother?

Go on, click and find out.

tscd said...

'Reactive psychosis', huh?

This guy will be lucky if he ever gets a job in the future. Or another girlfriend.

Anonymous said...

Shouldn't the biggest lesson that you learnt as a DPP be: "Singapore's justice system is too harsh"?

Had this case - as well as many death penalty, 24 stroke caning, or even imprisonment cases - occured overseas, the criminal would have gotten off with life imprisonment, no caning or just fines (respectively)!

Singapore's harsh punishment -- like all other policies -- was initiated to punish locals, to keep locals under control, so as to serve and attract ang moh MNC investors.

But after 40 yrs. we see that this does not lower crime rate (see other countries for comparison), and is detrimental to a small population like ours because it runs counter to the "human resource is our only resource" truth (that the govt uses often to justify its policies but which it actually pays lip services to)!

Anonymous said...

Every time someone does something bad, he pleads something is wrong with his mind. Someone kills his wife and pleads some frontal lobe thing and gets only jail. This guy who pushed his wanting to be ex-g onto an oncoming MRT train, he's depressed. Gee, with so many mentally challenged pple running around, we better not look anyone in the eye, in case we become the next victim -- unless the law stops playing nanny and say, there's no place in this world, esp crowded s'pore, for people who refuse 2 control themselves from acting out their vicious impulses. If not, let's hope all the bleeding hearts n their loved ones get put into the shoes of victims, some day, some how...

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

You may be surprised to know this - there is a school of thought which argues that by definition, practically all criminals are mentally ill. This is because its definition of mental illness goes something like this - "any state of mind which has not been successfully conditioned to accept and follow society's accepted norms of behaviour."

This doesn't present much guidance in real life, of course - since, even using more conventional definitions of mental illness, we DO regularly punish some mentally-ill criminals, and we DON'T do the same for other mentally-ill criminals, thus bringing us squarely back to the age-old issue of where to draw the line.

Some past musings by Mr Wang on the topic of mental illness and criminals - click here, here and here.

Anonymous said...

You are right. Unless one is dealing with a hardcore criminal, most cases deal with situations where a bad decision is made; when one stabs another just because there was an impluse to lash out, or when one accidentally smothers another to death when all he was trying to do was to "shut her up".

*sigh* such is life ... and such is the law...


p.s. am ready for our lunch appt. talk to you after the IMF/WB thingy... also.. cannot comment in your blog under my account as I've gone into Beta.

moomooman said...

Don't we all have a little of "reactive pychosis"?

In my most stressful times, I would dig my nose and I think that would be consider a pychotic behaviour.

Anonymous said...

I don't regard myself as being from the criminal bar but well done, Mr Wang, for reminding us to empathise in a case where so many self-styled "ladies men" out there will express outrage to score points with their constituency.

Pinned him down ? Bet if SHE had pushed him, they would have let her walk.

Er, Jonathan, sorry, please re-draft - exemption clause is of insufficient scope.

Anonymous said...

Actually, that women would have be killed in the track anytime.

MRT trains are powered by high volts of electricity.

If she touches the track that contain the high voltage, she would have been shock and burn alive, right in the track.

Anonymous said...

That guy, for goodness sake, he shouldn't have pushed her onto the track.

One push = tanished of his future.

It's not worth it. He could have a very bright future with his scholarship.

Anonymous said...

PC :

In my mind... the risk of getting electrocuted is much better than the even higher likelihood of getting run over by a train

Joseph Chiang said...

Ironic a person can learn so much in school (he's a scholar), yet he's never taught how to deal with real-life situations like this.

Anonymous said...

Joe, please see previous post and comments on scholars.

Anonymous said...

Well, Joe, anyone, including scholars, can fall crazily in love, and crazily out of love, and become a little crazy in the process. I guess that's partly what Mr Wang meant, when he said that criminals are human beings like everyone else.

Formal education has nothing to do with it. Tony Buzan has correctly pointed out that traditional formal education does not teach you how to think; Robert Kiyosaki has correctly pointed out that traditional formal education does not teach you how to handle your money; Richard Branson has pointed out that traditional formal education does not teach you how to succeed you in life ... and I think that we all know that traditional formal education most certainly does not teach you how to handle a love affair or take care of your own mental health.

Anonymous said...

joe, extrapolate your fears about scholars to those made perm secs and ministers making policies affecting our lives, and you get an idea of the nightmare we have in Singapore.

Anonymous said...

Kwong's love for his (ex-)girlfriend is like a runaway train...

I live VERY near Clementi MRT station. Too bad I wasn't at/near my home when the incident happened. Damn. You seldom get big happenings in a sleepy town such as Clementi.

Joseph Chiang said...

maybe my comment was misunderstood. what i meant was a person (everyone, including non-scholars) could only be taught so much, but when it comes down to the basics of being human, we realize there is still much to learn. of course the accused could have been you or me, but most likely, i would have just given her a tight slap.

i was one of those that supported zidane when he headbutted the italian guy (i forgot his name), but i would be appalled if he had stamped on his face.

Anonymous said...

Duh, if criminals were really monsters we wouldn't need top brains to become lawyers to persecute and defend them right? What value did you add to society in your capacity as a DPP considering that you felt like swatting evil mosquitoes, and felt like crying over criminals who
have a sad past? Don't 99% of us think the same way? We want it to be a perfect world whereby "bad" and "good" are clearly demarcated.

Most harmful acts are committed when people are of certain frames of mine in that split second, that's why society NEEDS rational and calm people to analyse each situation and mete out judgment accordingly.

Even if you face a very twisted individual who's done a lot of wrong, you shouldn't have been personal about it, and depersonalise them by calling them "mosquito".
(It worries me that you admitted that your personal biases play a role in your DPP days.) Do you know everything about any particular hardened criminal whom you may have classified as pure evil? Whether he was abused as a kid or whether he has a chemical imbalance in his brain?

And even if an offender's actions are a result of his past, are his victims not victims? If every offender is himself a victim of a crime, should the law be harsh to put an end to the vicious cycle? In pardoning a criminal, you're sentencing his next victim.

Even kids can play police and thief and the chaser vehemently pins down the chasee who is designated the part of "thief". But in the real world there are too many grey areas, and that's why we need truly intelligent and objective people to be judges and lawyers.


Anonymous said...

Every time someone does something bad, he pleads something is wrong with his mind
for people who refuse 2 control themselves from acting out their vicious impulses. If not, let's hope all the bleeding hearts n their loved ones get put into the shoes of victims, some day, some how...

If a relative of mine was attacked by someone in an alternative state of mind, that doesn't make that someone more guilty. A personal, emotional reflex of vengeful feeling against said offender isn't what I would call proof in an objective court of law.

By the way, I feel really bad for the girl too.

I was once in that guy's position, actually. I didn't try to kill anyone, but I did spend some time in a mental hospital. When a person is in a psychotic state and does something wrong, it isn't because he can't control his vicious impulse or is evil and trying to use insanity as an excuse.

But how to even explain this to someone who hasn't been psychotic, hasn't been in a mental hospital, hasn't talked to other "crazy" people and find them just pretty sad normal people? How to tell them poor people aren't just lazy, criminal people aren't just evil, crazy people aren't subhuman? How to make people realise having A's and having a high IQ doesn't exempt a person from human flaws? Compassion and understanding isn't just bringing flowers to an orphanage!

Trying to kill someone is really serious. This is a very sad situation, he has to face up to punishment. But feeling compassion doesn't mean you're a bleeding heart and needs to your loved one attacked. That won't change my opinion(s) one bit.

Anonymous said...

1) What if the girl was your daughter?
I want revenge

2) What if the boy was your son?
I want justice

Joseph Chiang said...

1) What if the girl was your daughter?
It's her luck to have a 'reactive psychotic' as her boyfriend. Thank god she chose to dump him in the first place.

2) What if the boy was your son?
If not because of her, he wouldn't be suffering from 'reactive psychosis'. If anyone's to blame, it's her.

Anonymous said...

Any 1 know the lady nationality?

Mockingbird said...

They were both at the wrong place at the wrong time. She shouldn't have provoked him with what she said. He shouldn't have pushed her off the platform onto the tracks. No one can make us mad. We can either choose to roll with the punches or retaliate in wrath. Kwong had retaliated in rage, another regular Joe with an anger problem might have done the same.