Chua Chye Tiong v Public Prosecutor

JurisdictionSingapore
JudgeYong Pung How CJ
Judgment Date28 October 2003
Neutral Citation[2003] SGHC 261
Docket NumberMagistrate's Appeal No 40 of 2003
Date28 October 2003
Year2003
Published date07 November 2003
Plaintiff CounselR S Wijaya (Sam & Wijaya)
Citation[2003] SGHC 261
Defendant CounselAmarjit Singh (Deputy Public Prosecutor)
CourtHigh Court (Singapore)
Subject Matter"privy",Words and Phrases,Amendment,Section 3(3) Motor Vehicles (Third-Party Risks and Compensation) Act (Cap 189, 2000 Rev Ed),Section 3(1) Motor Vehicles (Third-Party Risks and Compensation) Act (Cap 189, 2000 Rev Ed),Section 256(b)(ii) Criminal Procedure Code (Cap 68, 1985 Rev Ed),Lax practice at company leading to use of uninsured vehicle,Whether "privy" to offence requires prior knowledge of and consent to offence,Sections 3(1), 3(2), 3(4)(c) and 21(2) Motor Vehicles (Third-Party Risks and Compensation) Act (Cap 189, 2000 Rev Ed),Section 29(1) Road Traffic Act (Cap 276, 1997 Rev Ed),Whether manager of company "caused" use of insured vehicle,Being privy to offence of causing vehicle to be used without a licence in force,Whether accused had reason to believe vehicle lacked insurance coverage,Causing vehicle to be used without insurance policy in respect of third-party risks,Whether manager privy to company's offence,Road Traffic,Whether any special reasons to dispense with mandatory disqualification order,Disqualification order,Sentencing,Charge,Whether manager of company "caused" use of de-registered vehicle,Whether failure to take reasonable care "caused" wrongful use of car,Sections 29(1) and 131(2) Road Traffic Act (Cap 276, 1997 Rev Ed),Lax practice at company leading to use of de-registered vehicle,Offences,Section 131(2) Road Traffic Act (Cap 276, 1997 Rev Ed),Power of High Court in appellate capacity to amend charge,"cause" and "causes",Criminal Procedure and Sentencing

1 This was an appeal against the decision of the district judge when he convicted the appellant on four charges. The first and third charges were in relation to the appellant being privy to causing a vehicle to be used without a licence in force. The second and fourth charges pertained to the appellant being privy to causing a vehicle to be used without an insurance policy in respect of third party risks in relation to the user of the vehicle. The appellant was sentenced to a fine of $600 on each of the four charges, failing which six days’ imprisonment per default in payment would be imposed. Additionally, the appellant was disqualified from operating all classes of vehicles for 12 months each for the second and fourth charges, the periods of disqualification to run concurrently. The appeal was brought against both conviction and sentence. At the end of the hearing, I dismissed the appeal. I now give my reasons.

Charges

2 The charges against the appellant read as follows:

(a) LTA Case No. ERP 47960/02

You, Chua Chye Tiong NRIC No. S0160768E are charged that you, on 21 January 2002 at 6.01pm along Bencoolen Street, being the Manager of M/S Swee Seng Credit Pte Ltd, were privy to the offence committed by the said company, to wit: being the owner of motor car No. SCG 857 Y, did cause the said vehicle to be used without a vehicle licence in force (expired on 17 January 2002) and you have thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 29(1) read with Section 131(2) of the Road Traffic Act, Chapter 276.

(b) LTA Case No. ERP 47960/02

You, Chua Chye Tiong NRIC No. S0160768E are charged that you, on 21 January 2002 at 6.01pm along Bencoolen Street, being the Manager of M/S Swee Seng Credit Pte Ltd, were privy to the offence committed by the said company, to wit: being the owner of motor car No. SCG 857 Y, did cause the said vehicle to be used by an unknown driver whilst there was not in force in relation to the user of the said vehicle such a policy of insurance or such a security in respect of third-party risks as complies with the requirements of the Motor Vehicles (Third Party Risks and Compensation) Act, Chapter 189 and you have thereby committed an offence under Section 3(1) and punishable under Section 3(2) read with Section 21(2) of the said Act.

(c) LTA Case No. ERP 47961/02

You, Chua Chye Tiong NRIC No. S0160768E are charged that you, on 22 January 2002 at 2.53pm along Buyong Road, being the Manager of M/S Swee Seng Credit Pte Ltd, were privy to the offence committed by the said company, to wit: being the owner of motor car No. SCG 857 Y, did cause the said vehicle to be used without a vehicle licence in force (expired on 17 January 2002) and you have thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 29(1) read with Section 131(2) of the Road Traffic Act, Chapter 276.

(d) LTA Case No. ERP 47961/02

You, Chua Chye Tiong NRIC No. S0160768E are charged that you, on 22 January 2002 at 2.53pm along Buyong Road, being the Manager of M/S Swee Seng Credit Pte Ltd, were privy to the offence committed by the said company, to wit: being the owner of motor car No. SCG 857 Y, did cause the said vehicle to be used by an unknown driver whilst there was not in force in relation to the user of the said vehicle such a policy of insurance or such a security in respect of third-party risks as complies with the requirements of the Motor Vehicles (Third Party Risks and Compensation) Act, Chapter 189 and you have thereby committed an offence under Section 3(1) and punishable under Section 3(2) read with Section 21(2) of the said Act.

The facts

3 The appellant was Chua Chye Tiong (“Chua”), the manager of one of the branch outlets of a motorcar trading company, Swee Seng Credit Pte Ltd (“SSC”). SSC has its head office at Bukit Timah Plaza and two branch outlets at the Automobile Megamart in Ubi Avenue 2 and the Turf Club Auto Emporium at the Turf Club (“Turf City branch”). Chua was the manager of the Turf City branch. Chua’s duties involved running the Turf City branch and taking charge of its daily sales and purchases. He was also expected to know the movements of the vehicles in the branch.

4 On the 17th of January 2002, the SSC head office applied to the Land Transport Authority (“the Authority”) to de-register vehicle SCG 857 Y (the “Car”), a motorcar registered in SSC’s name. The Car was stationed at the Turf City branch. Ms. Chan Kah Fung (“Chan”), a personal assistant at the SSC head office, submitted the application. Chan failed to inform Chua about the de-registration, although it was the practice and her duty to inform the branch manager when an application for de-registration had been submitted. Chan received the documents confirming de-registration by the 18 January 2002. However, again she forgot to inform Chua about this.

5 On the 21 and 22 January 2002, the Car was driven by an unknown person. It was not disputed that, on those dates, the de-registered Car did not have a valid vehicle licence and insurance coverage. The Car was then detected passing different ERP gantry points on these two dates (21 January 2002: ERP gantry along Bencoolen Street and 22 January 2002: ERP gantry along Buyong Road).

The prosecution’s case

6 The prosecution called the Managing Director of SSC, Poh Chee Yong (“Poh”), as their only witness. Poh testified that there was no physical system of control over the keys to the vehicles at the Turf City branch. These keys could either be found in the ignition slot of the vehicles or in a plastic tray or basket placed within the branch. Poh stated that such a state of affairs could result in a vehicle being moved out of the branch premises unnoticed. However, Poh stated that despite such lax practice, it was the job of the manager of the branch to keep basic records of all vehicles taken out of the premises and to account for all drivers of the vehicles. In general, it was the duty of the manager of the branch to care for and control all vehicles within the premises.

7 Ultimately, the prosecution attempted to show that Chua, as the manager of the Turf City branch, was responsible where a vehicle was taken out of the branch premises. As such, the prosecution contended that both Chua and SSC had essentially caused the Car to be used without a valid licence and insurance coverage. Additionally, the prosecution contended that Chua was also privy to SSC’s offence.

The defence

8 Essentially, Chua attempted to show that he neither caused nor was privy to SSC’s offence of causing the Car to be used without a valid licence. He claimed that he was not aware that the Car had been de-registered, as he was not informed about it. He was also not aware of SSC’s application to the Authority to de-register the Car. He added that, at times, his colleagues would drive away vehicles without informing him. Furthermore, Chua claimed that the word “privy” in s 131(2) of the Road Traffic Act (“RTA”) suggested prior knowledge and concurrence of the offence committed by SSC. In this respect, Chua argued that his liability was limited insofar as he was privy to SSC’s offence. He relied on the case of Compania Maritima San Basilio S.A. v Oceanus Mutual Underwriting Association (Bermuda) Ltd [1997] 1 QB 49 to buttress this contention.

9 Lastly, Chua argued that the second and fourth charges against him were drafted in such a way as to require him to be privy to SSC’s offence of causing the Car to be used without insurance coverage. Chua claimed that since he was not privy to such an offence, he could not then be made liable.

The decision below

10 The district judge found that Chua was trying to distance himself from his obligations as the manager of the Turf City branch. He noted that Chua was aware of the requirement that the manager was to be informed whenever a car was taken out of the branch premises. The district judge also found that it was Chua who had care and control over all the vehicles in the Turf City branch. As such, the movement of the Car, its use on the road and the task of ensuring that it was not used when it had been de-registered were ultimately Chua’s responsibility. The district judge added that the fact that there was lax control of the keys to the vehicles and that this was a common practice in the second-hand motorcar trade would not absolve Chua from blame.

11 The district judge cited the case of M V Balakrishnan v PP MA 198/1997 to confirm that the charges Chua faced pertained to strict liability offences under the RTA and Motor Vehicles (Third-Party Risks and Compensation Act) (“MVA”). The defence to such strict liability offences would be to show that reasonable care had been exercised. The question then arose as to whether Chua was vigilant with regard to the vehicles (and thus the Car) under his control. The district judge affirmed that it was Chua’s responsibility to ensure that each journey embarked upon using a vehicle under his care and control was a “legal” one. The district judge stated that the purpose of the RTA and MVA was to achieve safety for all road users. He opined that it was therefore not onerous to require those who had the care and control of vehicles to ensure that a particular vehicle was properly licensed and insured for use on the road.

12 The district judge then discussed the words “cause”, used in s 29(1) RTA and 3(1) MVA and “privy”, used in s 131(2) RTA. He stated that, as a noun, the ordinary dictionary meaning of the word “cause” is given as “thing that produces an effect” or/and “person or thing that occasions or produces something”. As a verb, “cause” means “be the cause of”, “produce” and “make happen”. The district judge reasoned that by the inaction of Chan, an agent of SSC, and SSC’s acceptance (and endorsement) of the lax practice with regard to the keys, SSC allowed the use of the Car. As such, SSC had caused the wrongful use to occur. SSC’s inactivity and acceptance of the lax state of affairs, in turn, showed that they had failed...

To continue reading

Request your trial
53 cases
  • Siti Hajar bte Abdullah v Public Prosecutor
    • Singapore
    • High Court (Singapore)
    • 14 Febrero 2006
    ...expense and inconvenience, was insufficient to dispense with mandatory disqualification: at [21] and [22]. Chua Chye Tiong v PP [2004] 1 SLR (R) 22; [2004] 1 SLR 22 (folld) Kanapathipillai, Re [1960] MLJ 243 (folld) Knowler v Rennison [1947] 1 KB 488 (refd) Muniandy, Re [1954] MLJ 168 (foll......
  • Public Prosecutor v Rozilawaty binte Eddy Rosmanah
    • Singapore
    • District Court (Singapore)
    • 3 Abril 2020
    ...Appeal Court case of Public Prosecutor v Hiew Chin Fong [1988] 1 MLJ 46719 – which was endorsed in Chua Chye Tiong v Public Prosecutor [2004] 1 SLR(R) 22 at [61] and [62] – a 12-month disqualification period was imposed on the offender despite the fact that his livelihood depended on him ha......
  • Public Prosecutor v Chinnathambi Gunasekaran
    • Singapore
    • District Court (Singapore)
    • 19 Enero 2018
    ...Criminal Appeal Court in Public Prosecutor v Hiew Chin Fong [1988] 1 MLJ 467, which was endorsed in Chua Chye Tiong v Public Prosecutor [2004] 1 SLR(R) 22 at [61] and [62]. For completeness, see Mohamed Faizal Mohamed Abdul Kadir, Why do Singapore Courts refer to English and Malaysian cases......
  • Prathib s/o M Balan v PP
    • Singapore
    • High Court (Singapore)
    • 22 Noviembre 2017
    ...referred to Bander Yahya A Alzahrani v PP [2017] SGHC 287 (refd) Chua Chye Tiong v PP [2003] SGDC 188 (refd) Chua Chye Tiong v PP [2004] 1 SLR(R) 22; [2004] 1 SLR 22, HC (refd) Ho Chun Kow v PP [1990] 1 SLR(R) 575; [1990] 3 MLJ 356 (distd) Knowler v Rennison [1947] 1 KB 488 (refd) M V Balak......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
3 books & journal articles
  • Criminal Procedure, Evidence and Sentencing
    • Singapore
    • Singapore Academy of Law Annual Review No. 2006, December 2006
    • 1 Diciembre 2006
    ...have been held not to constitute special reasons: see PP v Mohd Isa, Joseph Roland v PP[1996] 1 SLR 179 and Chua Chye Tiong v PP[2004] 1 SLR 22. 12.40 The courts have been slow to find the presence of ‘special reasons’ in order to protect road users: Chua Chye Tiong v PP at [53]. Before an ......
  • Insurance Law
    • Singapore
    • Singapore Academy of Law Annual Review No. 2003, December 2003
    • 1 Diciembre 2003
    ...is of course to secure compensation for victims of traffic accidents. ‘Cause’ use of motor vehicle 15.23 The case of Chua Chye Tiong v PP[2004] 1 SLR 22 involved, inter alia, the construction of the word ‘cause’ under the Road Traffic Act (‘RTA’) and the MVA. 15.24 The accused was the manag......
  • Criminal Law
    • Singapore
    • Singapore Academy of Law Annual Review No. 2020, December 2020
    • 1 Diciembre 2020
    ...Lei Sie Linda v Public Prosecutor [2020] 1 SLR 974 at [14]. 7 Seah Lei Sie Linda v Public Prosecutor [2020] 1 SLR 974 at [16] – [17]. 8 [2004] 1 SLR(R) 22. 9 Cap 276, 1997 Rev Ed. 10 Chua Chye Tiong v Public Prosecutor [2004] 1 SLR(R) 22 at [29]. 11 Seah Lei Sie Linda v Public Prosecutor [2......

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT