Abdul Aziz bin Ahtam v Public Prosecutor

JudgeYong Pung How CJ
Judgment Date02 December 1996
Neutral Citation[1996] SGHC 275
Docket NumberCriminal Revision No 19 of 1996
Date02 December 1996
Published date19 September 2003
Plaintiff CounselAng Sin Teck (Raja, Loo & Chandra)
Citation[1996] SGHC 275
Defendant CounselWinston Cheng Howe Ming (Deputy Public Prosecutor)
CourtHigh Court (Singapore)
Subject MatterPresumed possession,No evidence of mens rea of trafficking,Substitution of conviction for minor offence,Trafficking by transporting,Trafficking in controlled drugs,Whether prosecution established act of transportation involving purpose of ultimate distribution,s 175 Criminal Procedure Code (Cap 68),Statutory offences,(follow title of statute: eg misuse of drugs act),Criminal Law,Evidence adduced did not support charge against accused,Criminal Procedure and Sentencing,s 21 Misuse of Drugs Act (Cap 185),Whether defence should have been called to charge of trafficking by transportation,Revision of proceedings,Charge of drug trafficking not supported by evidence,Substitution of conviction for lesser offence of possession of controlled drug,Drugs found in vehicle driven by accused

The petitioner was tried in a district court on a charge of having not less than 330g and not more than 500g of cannabis in his possession for the purpose of trafficking, together with Goh Kim Hong (Goh) and Teo Tiang Hoe (Teo), in furtherance of the common intention of all three of them. This was an offence contrary to s 5(1)(a) of the Misuse of Drugs Act (Cap 185) (MDA). This charge was brought against him and Goh jointly (hereinafter referred to as the main charge).

In an alternative charge, the petitioner and Goh were charged with trafficking in the cannabis by transporting it in a motor car bearing registration number SZ 8607K (the car).
Teo was charged separately in the High Court and convicted of a capital charge, involving other quantities of cannabis in addition to the amount which formed the subject matter of the joint charge against Goh and the petitioner.

Brief facts

The offence allegedly took place on 18 June 1994 along Dunearn Road. The petitioner was then driving the car when it was stopped at a police road block along Dunearn Road at about 1.40am. Goh was seated in the front passenger seat, while Teo was seated in the rear. All three were arrested after the discovery of various packets of vegetable matter and one block of vegetable matter in a sports bag in the boot of the car. The vegetable matter was subsequently confirmed upon chemical analysis to be cannabis.

On discovering the block of cannabis, one Police Constable Lee Tuan Loy asked Teo whether it belonged to him.
Teo said that some of the things were his, but some were not. The petitioner and Goh both denied owning the block of cannabis. A statement was subsequently recorded from the petitioner under s 121 of the Criminal Procedure Code (Cap 68) (CPC). In this statement, the petitioner gave an account of the events leading to their arrest.

The proceedings below

Goh and the petitioner were jointly tried before a district judge. The prosecution relied substantially on the fact that the drugs were found in the car and the s 121 statement made by the petitioner. The material portions of the statement were as follows:

4 On 18 June 1994 at about 12.45am, I was arrested with two friends, Alan Goh Kim Hong and Michael Teo in a motor car SZ 8607K along Dunearn Road by a party of police officers at a road block. At the time of the arrest, the police officers found a sports bag containing cannabis. They also found an envelope containing cannabis below the driver`s seat and a yellow container with some cannabis. The police officers also found some packets of cannabis in the attache case lying on the back seat and a bottle from the back pocket of the front passenger seat. We were subsequently placed under arrest and brought to Tanglin Police Station...

6 On 17 June 1994 at about 7.30pm as I was crossing the road from Tanjong Pagar to Amara Hotel, Michael Teo honked at me. He was the driver of the car, SZ 8607K and was with one Alan Goh. I then went into the back seat of the car. It was a chance meeting. When I entered the car, I saw that the bottle was already at the back pocket of the front passenger seat and the yellow container was on top of the handbrake. The attache case was also at the back seat on the right side and it belongs to Michael Teo. Michael drove the car to Peninsula Plaza where he alighted leaving Alan and I in the car. Michael told us that he was going to meet a friend. Before alighting, Michael told me to pass the attache case to him. I saw him opening the case and taking out two to three long type window envelope bearing the name `Sumida`. I also noticed that the envelopes contained cannabis. Michael then placed the envelopes in the pocket of his trouser before handing back the attache case to me. He then left the car. He came back less than 5 minutes later. Michael Teo then drove the car off to Ginza Plaza at West Coast Road. Upon arriving there, he alighted from the car and told us that he was meeting a friend leaving Alan and I inside the car. Michael Teo returned to the car about 5 minutes later. He then drove the car to the hawker centre on the opposite side of the road. I then saw him walking to the hawker centre. When he came back, Michael Teo drove to the McDonald`s Drive Thru Restaurant at East Coast Parkway. After collecting our food, we continued with our journey to Tampines where there was a police road block. That time was between 9.45pm and 10.00pm. However, we were checked and we were allowed to pass through.

7 We then travelled through various places and it was actually a joyride. Michael Teo was the driver throughout the journey. When I first entered the car at about 7.30pm along Tanjong Pagar Road, Michael Teo has already started to smoke cannabis in the car. The bottle with a pipe attached was used to smoke the drug which were taken out from the yellow container. The bottle was passed between Michael Teo and I throughout the car journey. Along the Pan Island Expressway, I told Michael Teo that I wanted to go home as I needed to go to work the following day. I also told him I wanted to borrow the car as I intended to go out with my fiancee the next day. Along Eng Neo Avenue, Michael Teo told me to take over the wheel as he was feeling tired. At the same time, he told me that the `thing` was under the driver`s seat and was for me. The `thing` Michael Teo referred to was cannabis and it was for my own consumption. From Eng Neo Avenue, I drove along Dunearn Road as I intended to send Michael Teo back to his rented room at No 60 Watten Estate. I remember that throughout the journey, Alan Goh was seated in the front seat and I noticed that he was rather quiet and seldom talked. I also remember that when I took over the driving, he told me that he wanted to bring the sports bag back. This sports bag was the one found in the boot when we were arrested. However, along Dunearn Road, we were stopped by the road block and arrested.

8 I also remember that after we left the McDonald Drive Thru Restaurant, Michael Teo asked me to take something from the boot of the car. I then lowered down the back rest of the back seat and I saw the sports bag there in the boot. I then asked Michael Teo why the sports bag was still inside there and he replied that he forgot to bring out. I knew that the sports bag contained a block of cannabis. I suspected that the block of cannabis was still inside the bag. The first time I saw the sports bag containing the block of cannabis was sometime on 14 June 1994 in the evening when he came in the car, SZ 8607K to pick me up after my work. We then picked Alan Goh at his block and we proceeded to one of the car parks in Marina South to smoke cannabis. Upon arriving there, Michael Teo opened up the boot of the car and showed Alan Goh and I the sports bag. He opened up the sports bag and we saw the block of cannabis wrapped with newspaper and in a plastic bag. Michael Teo told us that one Mike passed the drug to him. The sports bag is green in colour. After showing the bag to us, he left it in the boot.

The trial judge took the view that the prosecution had established a prima facie case in relation to the main charge against both the petitioner and Goh.
He noted that the petitioner was in the car driven by Teo for six hours, and had been consuming cannabis during the journey. There was a block of cannabis in the boot of the car. Moreover, Goh, Teo and the petitioner had known each other for a good number of years.

More importantly, the trial judge considered that the petitioner`s s 121 statement was a confession.
The trial judge noted that there was evidence from it that the petitioner had seen Teo making deliveries of envelopes containing cannabis at various points during the journey, that the petitioner knew of the presence of the block of cannabis in the boot, and that, three days before their arrest, Teo had shown the petitioner the block of cannabis in the boot. The trial judge considered these disclosures to amount to a confession as they suggested the inference that the petitioner had committed the offence of trafficking as alleged. On this premise, he called the petitioner to enter his defence to the main charge.

The petitioner denied the prosecution`s allegations that he had been trafficking in the drugs.
He disclaimed any connection with Teo`s activities. He further maintained that there was never any common intention to traffic in the drugs. Goh adopted a similar line in his defence.

At the conclusion of the trial, both the petitioner and Goh were found guilty of the main charge.
Each was sentenced to 20 years` imprisonment and 15 strokes of the cane. They also pleaded guilty to an additional charge of consumption of a controlled drug for which they were each sentenced to three years` imprisonment, to run concurrently with the sentence in respect of the trafficking charge. Both were still serving sentence at the time the petition was heard.

Initially, Goh and the petitioner had appealed against the district court`s decision.
However, the petitioner instructed his solicitors to file a notice of discontinuance against his appeal on 15 May 1996, before the district judge delivered his grounds of decision. Goh proceeded with his appeal, which was allowed by this court on 16 August 1996.

Following Goh`s successful appeal, the petitioner then filed the instant petition for criminal revision on 23 September 1996.
He petitioned this court to set aside his conviction and sentence, on the premise that the evidence as adduced by the prosecution during the trial did not support the charge against him, and thus his defence should not have been called. It was essentially on these grounds that Goh`s appeal had been allowed.

The petition for revision

The key contentions raised by the petitioner were similar to those relied upon by Goh in his appeal. The petitioner contended that the prosecution had failed to prove essential elements of the charge against him at the close of...

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5 cases
  • Mohamed Hiraz Hassim v Public Prosecutor
    • Singapore
    • High Court (Singapore)
    • 1 February 2005
    ...person who, by virtue of his own admission, has already proved himself dishonest at least once: at [24].] Abdul Aziz bin Ahtam v PP [1996] 3 SLR (R) 799; [1997] 2 SLR 96 (folld) Ang Poh Chuan v PP [1995] 3 SLR (R) 929; [1996] 1 SLR 326 (folld) Chen Hock Heng Textile Printing Pte Ltd v PP [1......
  • Sharom bin Ahmad and Another v Public Prosecutor
    • Singapore
    • Court of Appeal (Singapore)
    • 17 July 2000
    ...findings that the confession was made by Boksenang voluntarily and was admissible as evidence: at [51]. Abdul Aziz bin Ahtam v PP [1996] 3 SLR (R) 799; [1997] 2 SLR 96 (refd) Aziz bin Abdul Kadir v PP [1999] 2 SLR (R) 314; [1999] 3 SLR 175 (refd) Chai Chien Wei Kelvin v PP [1998] 3 SLR (R) ......
  • Yunani bin Abdul Hamid v Public Prosecutor
    • Singapore
    • High Court (Singapore)
    • 11 April 2008
    ...[f]acts did not disclose all the necessary elements of the offence but the petitioner pleaded guilty anyway: Abdul Aziz bin Ahtam v PP [1997] 2 SLR 96; see also Chen Hock Heng Textile Printing Pte Ltd v PP [1996] 1 SLR 745. In addition, the court’s powers of revision were exercised when the......
  • Ng Kim Han and Others v Public Prosecutor
    • Singapore
    • High Court (Singapore)
    • 8 March 2001
    ... ... An example of when the power of revision was exercised is the case of Abdul Aziz bin Ahtam v PP [1997] 2 SLR 96 ... In that case, the petitioner was tried in the District ... ...
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