A young Indian-origin British national was sentenced to six weeks’ imprisonment on Tuesday for walking onto the track during the Singapore Grand Prix in September, so he could film the cars on his mobile phone.
District court judge Chay Yuen Fatt handed down the sentence after Yogvitam Pravin Dhokia, 27, pleaded guilty. The judge said a “sufficiently deterrent jail sentence” was justified as the Briton’s intrusion while the Formula One night race was in full swing on September 20 “could have resulted in disastrous and fatal consequences”.
Defence lawyer Jeremy Mark Pereira told AFP the sentence was backdated to October 16, when Dhokia -- who was free on bail at the time -- voluntarily returned to custody in the hope of cutting any jail term that would be imposed.
Time spent in remand is taken off prison terms in Singapore. Legal experts said Dhokia would also save on accommodation costs in one of the world’s most expensive cities. Dhokia could have received a jail term of up to six months or a fine or both for the charge of committing a rash act that endangered other people.
The Briton was arrested shortly after he walked onto the floodlit street circuit in Singapore’s upmarket Marina Bay district as the race was in progress.
In pronouncing the sentence, Judge Chay described Dhokia’s action as “selfish and foolhardly” and noted that he had admitted to deliberately entering the track to film the race. The judge said Dhokia ignored the marshals who shouted at him as he continued filming. “Given the very high speeds of the cars, the drivers would have had very little time to react to unforeseen and unpredictable interruptions,” the judge said.
Closed-circuit television footage released after the race showed Dhokia wriggling his way through a gap in the circuit’s metal fencing. Clad in a T-shirt and shorts, he crossed the track -- at first ambling slowly and then accelerating as race cars approached.
Sebastian Vettel, who eventually won the Singapore event, had a major shock on lap 36 when he raised the alarm at the intrusion and brought the race to a temporary halt.
“There’s a man on the track!” Vettel yelled over the team radio as the safety car came out.
Judge Chay said he considered some mitigating factors in the sentence, including Dhokia’s decision to plead guilty. “He has therefore shown contrition,” the judge said.
Before he was released on bail on October 2, the Briton had also spent 11 days in remand, the judge noted. The judge said it also appeared that Dhokia was “under the influence of medication” as he was taking the anti-malaria drug Mefluoquine.
But while this “may have contributed to his dangerous behaviour”, the judge said “I do not consider this to be a significant contributing factor that would lessen the severity of the offence to the extent of avoiding a jail term”.