Chia Sze Chang v Public Prosecutor

Judgment Date08 October 2002
Date08 October 2002
Docket NumberMagistrate's Appeal No 175 of 2002
CourtHigh Court (Singapore)
Chia Sze Chang
Public Prosecutor

[2002] SGHC 232

Yong Pung How CJ

Magistrate's Appeal No 175 of 2002

High Court

Criminal Procedure and Sentencing–Appeal–Whether appellate court should disturb findings of fact by trial judge–Whether adverse inference to be drawn from Prosecution's failure to call certain witnesses–Section 116 illus (g) Evidence Act (Cap 97, 1997 Rev Ed)–Criminal Procedure and Sentencing–Sentencing–Relevance of previous convictions for similar offences–Need for deterrence to prevent fines from being treated as business cost–Public Entertainment–Licensing–Breaches of licence condition–Need for deterrence against habitual offenders–Need for deterrence to prevent fines from being treated as business cost–Section 19 (1) (c)Public Entertainments and Meetings Act (Cap 257, 2001 Rev Ed)

The police raided a lounge co-owned by the appellant (“Chia”), and arrested him for breaching the Public Entertainments and Meetings Act (Cap 257, 2001 Rev Ed). Chia was charged under s 19 (1) (c) of the Act for failing to ensure that: (a) singers employed by the lounge did not sit with the customers (“the first charge”); and (b) only persons registered with the lounge served the customers drinks.

Chia was convicted and fined a total of $27,000, which he paid. He appealed against his conviction.

Held, dismissing the appeal:

(1) The appeal against conviction under the first charge was dismissed. First, the singers in question were employed by the lounge, and the trial judge found that they were sitting with customers. Chia did not adduce evidence to the contrary and in this regard, an appellate court should be slow to overturn a trial judge's findings of fact. Second, the singers were not called as prosecution witnesses because they had left Singapore, and not because their testimony would prejudice the Prosecution's case. Hence, no adverse inference was drawn against the Prosecution under s 116 illus (g) of the Evidence Act (Cap 97, 1997 Rev Ed). Third, Chia did not satisfy the condition that “the licensee shall ensure that the singers do not sit with the customers”; the court found that he turned a blind eye to the goings-on in the lounge's rooms: at [8] to [19].

(2) The appeal against conviction under the remaining charges was also dismissed. First, the two women caught serving drinks were not registered with the lounge. Second, they were correctly identified by the officer in question. Third, that they were the ones serving drinks was established despite the few inconsistencies between the evidence of the officer and the prosecution witnesses. Fourth, that the Prosecution did not call the women or two of the customers in question did not weaken its case as there was direct and credible evidence from other material witnesses: at [23] to [29].

(3) The heavy fine imposed was necessary to act as a deterrent. Chia was previously fined no less than six times for breach of the Act, and he paid all of them. The court expressed the need to stop such licensees from treating fines as business losses: at [30].

Ang Jwee Herng v PP [2001] 1 SLR (R) 720; [2001] 2 SLR 474 (folld)

Chua Keem Long v PP [1996] 1 SLR (R) 239; [1996] 1 SLR 510 (refd)

Lim Ah Poh v PP [1992] 1 SLR (R) 192; [1992] 1 SLR 713 (refd)

Ng Soo Hin v PP [1993] 3 SLR (R) 703; [1994] 1 SLR 105 (refd)

Roy S Selvarajah v PP [1998] 3 SLR (R) 119; [1998] 3 SLR 517 (refd)

Shamsul bin Abdullah v PP [2002] 2 SLR (R) 838; [2002] 4 SLR 176 (refd)

Sundara Moorthy Lankatharan v PP [1997] 2 SLR (R) 253; [1997] 3 SLR 464 (refd)

Teo Keng Pong v PP [1996] 2 SLR (R) 890; [1996] 3 SLR 329 (refd)

Yoganathan R v PP [1999] 3 SLR (R) 346; [1999] 4 SLR 264 (folld)

Evidence Act (Cap 97, 1997 Rev Ed) s 116 illus (g) (consd)

Public Entertainments and Meetings Act (Cap 257, 2001 Rev Ed) s 19 (1) (c) (consd)

S S Dhillon and Sarbrinder Singh (Dhillon Dendroff & Partners) for the appellant

Winston Cheng Howe Ming (Deputy Public Prosecutor) for the respondent.

Yong Pung How CJ

1 On 23 December 2001 at 12.50am the police conducted a raid on Tiananmen KTV & Lounge Pte Ltd, situated at 407 Havelock Road. Chia Sze Chang, the appellant, was a co-owner of the entertainment establishment at this time. Due to three breaches of the Public Entertainments and Meetings Act (Cap 257, 2001 Ed) s 19 (1) (c), the appellant was charged on three counts.

2 The first charge was that the appellant had failed to ensure that the singers did not sit with the customers.

3 The second and third charges were that the appellant had failed to ensure that the customers would only be served drinks by persons who were listed on the establishment's register.

4 The appellant was convicted on all three charges. District Judge Kow Keng Siong imposed a fine of $9,000, in default two months' imprisonment, on each charge. The total fine was therefore $27,000 which the appellant has since paid.

5 The appellant appealed against conviction.

Facts as to the first charge

6 The following were the facts as found by the trial judge.

7 Staff Sergeant Wong Vee Kong (“SSgt Wong”), the Prosecution's first witness, entered the Tiananmen KTV & Lounge at 12.50am on 23 December 2001. He was in plain clothes and was accompanied by a group of officers, also in plain clothes. Due to his seniority, SSgt Wong led the group. SSgt Wong surveyed the premises and spotted some goings-on in KTV Room 18, where he observed a woman dancing with a customer. He also observed that two more women were chatting and sitting with some other customers in the same room. These observations prompted SSgt Wong to enter the room whereupon he identified himself as a police officer. In the course of his questioning and the subsequent arrests, SSgt Wong identified the two women who were sitting with the customers as Liu Hong Lian (“Liu”) and Zhang Chong Ling (“Zhang”). It was undisputed that these two...

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