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By Selina Lum
The Straits Times
Mar 8, 2017
Having learnt his lesson from two drink-driving convictions, businessman Wang Kim Fatt always used a valet driver to send him home whenever he goes drinking.
On March 10 last year, when his regular valet arrived to pick him up, the driver said he was unfamiliar with the controls of Wang's brand-new $600,000 Maserati Gran Turismo MC Stradale collected from the dealer just hours earlier.
The gearbox of the car is robotised. There is no gearshift lever and the drive modes are activated by paddle shifters.
The valet, who is named as a driver in Wang's motor insurance policy, asked for a demonstration on operating the car.
Wang, 53, who had a few drinks that day, got into the driver's seat with the valet next to him and drove for 710m before he was stopped at a police roadblock on Mayne Road. He was later arrested for failing a breathalyser test.
Wang was initially sentenced by a district court to six weeks' jail, a $10,000 fine and an eight-year driving ban after he pleaded guilty to his third drink-driving offence.
On Wednesday (March 8), he succeeded in his appeal to the High Court for a shorter jail term.
His lawyer, Mr Daniel Chia, argued that while six weeks' jail is within sentencing norms for the typical third-time offender, his sentence should be adjusted based on the "peculiar and special" facts of his case.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Kong Kuek Foo argued that Wang should know he should not be driving and that six weeks was already in the lower range for such offences.
Judge of Appeal Chao Hick Tin agreed that the circumstances were not typical and cut Wang's jail term to four weeks.
"The circumstances of each cases are of critical importance in determining the appropriate sentence," he said.
The judge noted that Wang did make an effort to comply with the law but "a certain situation arose". Justice Chao said Wang should not have gone into the driver's seat but accepted that it was a momentary error of judgment.
"He should have left the car in the parking lot rather than trying to demonstrate to the driver how to operate the machine," said the judge.
Wang, whose wife does not have a driving licence, could not bear to do so though.
"The prospect of leaving the brand-new car overnight in the carpark was unpleasant," said Mr Chia.
Wang was first convicted of drink driving in 1994; he was fined $3,500 and disqualified from driving for two years. In 2006, he was jailed a week, fined $8,000 and handed a four-year driving ban for his second offence.