Subramaniam s/o Annamalai & ors v Public Prosecutor

CourtMagistrates' Court (Singapore)
JudgeGilbert Low Teik Seang
Judgment Date24 October 2001
Neutral Citation[2001] SGMC 38
Citation[2001] SGMC 38
Publication Date19 September 2003

Judgment

GROUNDS OF DECISION 1. The four accused persons, Subramaniam s/o Annamalai ("Subra") Mohammed Zairi bin Mohamed Mohtar ("Zairi"), Mohammad Ali bin Elias ("Ali") and La Ode Indra Karnain bin Jomain ("Indra") were jointly tried on the following charge P1

"You are charged that you on or about the 13th day of January, 2000, between 6.30 pm to 6.45 pm, at the toilet of Ward 34, Changi General Hospital, Singapore, and in furtherance of the common intention of you all did voluntarily cause(sic) hurt to one John s/o Vettamooto, to wit, by fisting on his face, and you have thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 323 read with Section 34 of the Penal Code, Chapter 224."

PROSECUTIONS CASE

Evidence of John s/o Vettamooto (PW2)

2. The complainant in this case, John s/o Vettamooto (PW2) ("John") was serving sentence for drug possession at Jalan Awan Prison at the time of the incident. On 9 January 2000, he was admitted to Changi General Hospital ("CGH") for severe asthma attacks and was placed in the Intensive Care Unit where the doctors intubated him and placed him on mechanical ventilation. His condition improved with treatment and on 11 January 2000, he was transferred to the prison ward (ward 34) where he occupied bed no.8. This ward was guarded by the Singapore Prison Emergency Action Response Force ("SPEAR"), to which the accused persons belonged.

3. On 12 January 2000, John had an argument with a SPEAR officer, Cpl Georag s/o Chinnakannu, who is also known as "Cpl George". John took offence at Cpl George calling him "dei", which he felt was derogatory. On 13 January 2000, nothing significant happened when Ali and Indra were on duty for the morning shift. However, at about 6.20 pm, Subra and Zairi arrived and took over duty. At that time, John was eating his dinner. Subra opened the gate of ward 34 and shouted to him in Tamil, "Is your name John?" After John replied in the affirmative, Subra told him in Tamil, "You eat first, later you know." Subra then went back to the guardroom which overlooked the ward.

4. After he had finished eating, John testified that the four accused persons entered the ward. Subra was holding a pair of handcuffs. Even though John had not called for the guards for whatsoever, Subra went over to him, released his leg-cuffs and said "out". John stepped onto the floor. Subra handcuffed his left hand, leaving his right hand free. Subra then led him to the toilet, while the other 3 accused persons followed.

5. In the toilet, Subra handcuffed John's left hand to the left railing of the toilet (as one faces the toilet). He then handcuffed John's right hand to the same railing with a long handcuff. John was now bent over the toilet bowl. Subra asked John what he wanted now. To which, John replied if it was wrong to ask someone to call his name. Subra then punched John on his left jaw. Zairi joined in to deliver the second punch. According to John, he also saw Ali and Indra punching him.

6. When the assault stopped after a few seconds, John forced himself to get up. He turned to Subra and asked him why he tied and hammered him. Subra punched him again. This time, the punch landed on John's mouth, causing his tooth to fly. John was very angry and scolded Subra. He wanted to fight back, but Subra held onto his right handcuff. Zairi and Indra then assaulted him. Ali who was behind shouted, "dont see" to the prisoner in bed 12. When the accused persons left, John shouted for help. Zairi, Ali and Indra returned and tried to make him shower and change into fresh clothes. Although John was bleeding, he refused to do so until he saw the doctor, to the extent that he told them to beat him some more and he would not complain against them, except for Subra. He was then left alone.

7. When the four accused persons returned later, Subra unlocked the handcuffs and asked John, "How now?" John replied that he would see him in court for this. John was then brought back to his bed, where they restrained his hands and feet. At this stage, John asked Subra if he had regretted beating him. Subras reply was that there was nothing to regret. According to John, the assault took 4 minutes and he was in the toilet for 15 to 16 minutes.

8. After a while, Staff Nurse Grace Annie Vijayarani Steven (PW4) ("Staff Nurse Grace") came in and attended to his injuries. Later, a medical house officer, Dr Loh Zhi Ming (PW5) also attended to him. According to John, he was injured on the left side of his head below his ear. His eyes, nose, mouth, shoulders and back were also injured. He lost a tooth at the left side of his mouth. Later, a second tooth had to be removed as a result of the assault because it was shaky. The left side of his body was also injured as he was kicked.


Evidence of Zainali bin Yahya (PW3)

9. Zainali bin Yahya (PW3) ("Zainali") was serving a prison sentence in Changi Prison for rape and was admitted to ward 34 in January 2000 with heart problems. On the day of the incident, he was at bed 15, which was quite near the toilet. Zainali testified that he heard Subra calling out to John at dinner-time. As John was still eating, Subra told John to continue with his meal. He then left.

10. After dinner, Zainali saw Subra enter the ward with Zairi and Ali. It was Zainalis testimony that he did not see John put up his hand to call them. Subra then uncuffed John's legs. When John got onto the floor, Subra handcuffed John's hands behind his back, and led John to the toilet. Zairi also entered the toilet, while Ali waited near the entrance of the toilet. While they were escorting John to the toilet, Indra entered the ward, took a look, and left.

11. Zainali heard sounds coming from the toilet. He heard an argument in Tamil and what he described as the sound of people fighting and exchanging blows. He clarified that this was the sound of punches and something hitting the wall. After a while, the officers left the ward, leaving John in the toilet. It was Zainalis testimony that he did not know John prior to the incident at Ward 34.


Evidence of Lim Chye Tze (PW7)

12. Another prisoner, Lim Chye Tze (PW7) ("Lim"), was also admitted to Ward 34 for a hand operation at that time. Lim testified that on 12 January 2000, John raised his hand to go to the toilet. As the prison guard was slow to attend to him, John and the guard quarreled in English and Tamil. At dinner-time on 13 January 2000, Subra scolded John with Tamil vulgarities, asked John to finish his food quickly and said that he would look for John later. When John finished his meal, Subra walked over to John and said, "Yesterday, you were quite arrogant." Subra then un-cuffed Johns leg cuffs and John got out of his bed. After which, Subra handcuffed Johns hands to his back. Zairi and Indra then pulled him into the toilet, hitting him on the head as they were doing so.

13. When they entered the toilet, Lim heard John shouting for help and the sound of fighting. Lim also heard thumping sounds from the toilet together with Johns shouts for help. After about 2 minutes, all the guards left. John was still in the toilet and he kept shouting for help. The guards returned later to bring John back to his bed. Lim observed that John had blood on his body, blood was oozing from his mouth and 2 or 3 of his teeth were gone.

14. Lim also gave evidence that he had not known John prior to Ward 34. He did not discuss the case with John as they could not talk inside the hospital.


Evidence of Staff Nurse Grace

15. Staff Nurse Grace testified that on 13 January 2000, she served John dinner between 5.30 pm and 6 pm. At that time, she did not notice any injuries on John. She then left the ward. She entered Ward 34 again at about 7 pm as she had to dispense medicine to the inmates. Ali and Indra left as she entered the ward. From her evidence, it appeared that neither of them told her that John was injured. (It was her evidence that none of the SPEAR officers at the ward informed her at that time that John was injured.) As she was pushing her medicine trolley into the ward, Subra opened the door for her and informed her that John had suddenly turned violent.

16. Upon entering Ward 34, she heard John shouting for her. When she approached John, she noticed that he was injured. She observed that blood was coming out from his mouth and there was bleeding from both his mouth and his nose. When she asked him what happened, John demanded to see a doctor immediately and said that he was assaulted but did not name the persons who assaulted him. She attended to him by wiping the bloodstains from his nose and mouth and then checking his parameters. When she left the ward, she summoned Dr Loh Zhi Ming who arrived about 20 minutes later. She also confronted Subra who maintained that John had turned violent.


Evidence of Dr Loh Zhi Ming

17. At that time, Dr Loh was a medical house officer attached to the hospital. When he arrived at Ward 34, he examined John. The results of his observations and medical examination of John were reduced into two medical reports dated 23 March 2000 and 27 October 2000 and admitted without any objections from the defence as Exhibits P5 and P6 respectively. These reports were written on Dr Lohs behalf by his supervisor, one Dr Chua Tju Siang of Changi General Hospital because he was only a house officer at that time and was not permitted to write such reports. In Court, Dr Loh agreed with the contents of these two medical reports and said that they were based on his case-sheets of the patient.

18. The injuries recorded in Exhibit P5 are as follows:

"Examination of his oral cavity revealed a broken upper incisor with a blood clot. There was no active bleeding seen and no other teeth were broken. There was a cephalo hematoma over the left mastoid region.

Examination of his back revealed mild tenderness over both scapula."

Upon a review of John the next day, the following was observed, as stated in Exhibit P5:

"He complained of neck discomfort...

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