Attorney-General v Ng Hock Guan

JurisdictionSingapore
CourtCourt of Three Judges (Singapore)
Judgment Date14 May 2004
Docket NumberCivil Appeal No 76 of 2003

[2004] SGCA 21

Court of Appeal

Yong Pung How CJ

,

Chao Hick Tin JA

and

Tan Lee Meng J

Civil Appeal No 76 of 2003

Attorney-General
Plaintiff
and
Ng Hock Guan
Defendant

Jeffrey Chan, Wilson Hue and Leonard Goh (Attorney-General's Chambers) for the appellant

Tan Chau Yee and Cindy Sim (Tan JinHwee Eunice & Lim ChooEng) for the respondent.

Chan Kim Hung v Commissioner of Police [2001] 3 HKC 33 (refd)

Edwards v Bairstow [1956] AC 14 (folld)

Heng Kai Kok v AG [1985-1986] SLR (R) 922; [1986] SLR 408 (folld)

Padfield v Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food [1968] AC 997 (folld)

Toy Centre Agencies Pty Ltd v Spencer (1983) 46 ALR 351 (refd)

Wong Kim Sang v AG [1981-1982] SLR (R) 295; [1982-1983] SLR 219 (folld)

Police Force Act (Cap 235,1985Rev Ed)ss 27 (1),27 (2)

Police Regulations (Cap 235, Rg 1, 1990Rev Ed)regs 6 (7), 6 (8),9

Administrative Law–Judicial review–Role of court in judicial review proceedings–Administrative Law–Remedies–Declaration–Declaration of trial judge ordering respondent's reinstatement and repayment of salary from date of dismissal–Whether declaration rightfully made

The respondent, a senior investigation officer of the Anti-Vice Branch (“AVB”), Criminal Investigation Department of the Singapore Police Force, was charged with assaulting Filipina suspects during an investigation. Disciplinary proceedings were instituted against him. In accordance with the Police Regulations, an authorised officer (the “AO”) was appointed to preside over these proceedings.

Four police officers and an independent interpreter in Tagalog, all of whom were present at various times during the investigation, were called as witnesses for the respondent. The police officers testified that they had not witnessed any assault on the Filipinas, nor had they noticed any injuries on them. The interpreter corroborated these testimonies.

The Filipinas adduced medical reports pertaining to their injuries but the doctors were not called to give evidence and hence were not subject to cross-examination. The respondent called Dr Teo Eng Swee (“Dr Teo”) in his defence. Dr Teo opined that most of the findings in the medical reports were subjective, and that self-infliction of the injuries could not be excluded based on the medical evidence before him.

The AO chose to accept the evidence of the prosecution witnesses in respect of each of the charges against the respondent. He found the respondent guilty of the charges, and recommended his dismissal to the Commanding Officer (the “CO”). In his written explanation for his decision, the AO repeatedly indicated (“the offending phrases”) that he had to treat the testimonies of the respondent's witnesses with caution as it was natural that they would try to help or cover up for their colleague.

After his dismissal, the respondent brought an action for judicial review against the AO. Based on the offending phrases, the judge took the view that the finding of guilt by the AO was irrational and unreasonable. The judge declared the respondent's dismissal null and void and ordered his reinstatement.

The Attorney-General appealed on four grounds, namely that: (a) the judge had placed undue weight on the offending phrases; (b) the judge had drawn the wrong inferences from the offending phrases; (c) the judge had substituted his own findings of fact for those of the AO's; and (d) the respondent should have challenged the CO's decision instead of that of the AO.

Held, dismissing the appeal:

(1) As the court exercised only a supervisory jurisdiction in a case of judicial review, it should not interfere even though it could have come to a different conclusion from that of the tribunal on the facts: at [22].

(2) Even though the Police Regulations did not expressly require the giving of written grounds, some form of a report was contemplated. Since the AO made a report setting out his thought process, the court had to examine it to determine if the rules of natural justice had been observed: at [25].

(3) A plain reading of the offending phrases left no doubt that the AO was biased against the respondent's witnesses. This indicated a prejudiced mind which was both irrational and unreasonable. The judge had not given the offending phrases undue weight, nor was he wrong to have held that the offending phrases indicated a state of mind which would have the proceedings vitiated: at [26] to [27] and [29].

(4) If the AO's finding of guilt could not stand, it would necessarily follow that the decision of the CO to dismiss the respondent must also fall. It was therefore sufficient for the respondent to impugn the AO's decision even if the order of dismissal was made by the CO: at [35].

(5) The judge's remarks were made to demonstrate why the AO's evaluation of the evidence was flawed. The judge had not attempted to substitute his own findings of fact for those of the AO: at [38].

Chao Hick Tin JA

(delivering the judgment of the court):

1 This was an appeal by the Attorney-General (“the appellant”) against a decision of the High Court (reported at [2004] 1 SLR (R) 415) which declared that the dismissal of the respondent from the Singapore Police Force (“the Force”) was null and void and ordered his reinstatement. The respondent was then a senior investigation officer of the rank of Senior Staff Sergeant, attached to the Anti-Vice Branch (“AVB”) of the Criminal Investigation Department (“CID”). After hearing arguments presented by the Principal Senior State Counsel (“PSSC”) for the appellant, we dismissed the appeal and affirmed the decision of the court below. We now give our reasons.

The facts

2 On 18 November 1999, pursuant to a written complaint by the management corporation of a condominium that prostitution was being carried out in an apartment, three police officers from the AVB, Sergeant Tea Ai Huay, Staff Sergeant Eve Boon Yen Kian and Sergeant Vicneswaran s/o Ramakrishnan, raided the apartment. The officers brought eight Filipinas found in the apartment back to the AVB. The eight Filipinas were Cristina Papa Hoyohoy (“Cristina”), Riza Consingnado Sanchez (“Riza”), Gerson Melendres Bairing (“Gerson”), Gina Sepagan Mareon (“Gina”), Maria Rosalyn Marano Papa (“Maria”) whose mother is Gina, Evangeline Mangurdun (“Evangeline”), Ely Glor Calibo (“Ely”) and Alicia Francisio (“Alicia”). Six of them, excluding Gina and Maria, were arrested on suspicion that they were prostitutes who had entered Singapore illegally. Gina was arrested on suspicion of being the person who had arranged for their entry into Singapore. Maria was asked to go to AVB to assist in the investigation.

3 At the AVB, the respondent interviewed the Filipinas. However, no evidence of any vice activity was uncovered. Following their release, three of the Filipinas, Cristina, Riza and Gerson, lodged complaints of assault committed against them by the respondent. They also made complaints of assault against the three officers who arrested them and brought them back to the CID. The complaints of assault against the three officers were distinct from, and not related to, the complaints of assault lodged against the respondent.

4 Following the complaints of the three Filipinas, and in accordance with reg 6 of the Police Regulations (Cap 235, Rg 1, 1990 Rev Ed), Deputy Superintendent of Police Jacob Joy (“DSP Joy”) was appointed as an authorised officer to hear the case against the respondent as well as the other three officers. Three charges were brought against the respondent and each charge was in respect of the allegation of each complainant.

5 Cristina alleged that the respondent had asked her if she was a prostitute. When she replied in the negative, she was slapped on the left cheek. Riza claimed to have been slapped on both cheeks and hit on the left buttock. Gerson complained of being slapped on both cheeks.

6 The authorised officer...

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