Criminal Law

Citation(2017) 18 SAL Ann Rev 365
Publication Date01 December 2017
AuthorPrem Raj PRABAKARAN* BEng (Mechanical) (Hons) (National University of Singapore), LLB (Hons) (National University of Singapore), BCL (Oxon); District Judge, State Courts. Mansoor AMIR* LLB (University College London), LLM (New York University); Deputy Public Prosecutor & State Counsel, Criminal Justice Division, Attorney-General's Chambers.
Date01 December 2017
Introduction

13.1 This review is in three parts. The first two Parts review, respectively, cases that involved offences under the Penal Code1 (“the Code”) and then, cases under the Misuse of Drugs Act2 (“MDA”). The third Part surveys cases that involved offences under other statutes that impose criminal liability.

Penal Code
Offences
Mens rea for murder under s 300(a)

13.2 In Iskandar bin Rahmat v Public Prosecutor3 (“Iskandar bin Rahmat”), the accused was convicted by the High Court on two counts of murder under s 300(a) of the Code. Section 300(a) – causing of death by doing an act “with the intention of causing death” – is the archetypical example of murder, and therefore attracts the mandatory death sentence. The victims were a father and his son.

13.3 On appeal, the accused challenged the convictions on several grounds. Amongst others, he argued that murder under s 300(a) of the Code was not made out because his actions did not show an intention of causing death. Rather, he contended that his actions showed only an intention to cause injuries (the accused did not deny causing the injuries

on the victims with a knife); such injuries were sufficient in the ordinary course of nature to cause death. This would have merited convictions for murder under s 300(c) of the Code instead, which does not attract the mandatory death sentence (as there is an option to impose a sentence of life imprisonment instead). According to the accused, his plan at the outset was only to rob the older man, whom he had tricked to remove valuables from the older man's safe deposit box,4 and not to kill either the older man or his son (who had arrived at the older man's house soon after the accused had inflicted the injuries on the older man). The accused claimed he had inflicted the injuries to the victims because they had each attempted to first assault him.

13.4 The Court of Appeal held that it was “not strictly necessary” for the Prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused had planned to kill either or both victims from the beginning – because it is “well-established that the intention to cause death under s 300(a) … need not be pre-planned or premeditated, and can be formed on the spur of the moment, just before the actual killing takes place”.5 If it could be shown that the accused had planned to kill both victims all along,6 then the intention to cause their deaths at the time of the killing would be established a fortiori. The converse was, however, not true. As such, “[even] if the [accused] had no premeditated plan to kill [the victims], he would still be equally guilty of murder under s 300(a) … if it [could] be shown beyond a reasonable doubt that [he] had the intention to cause [their] deaths … at the time of the killing” [emphasis in original].7

13.5 Rejecting the accused's version that the older man had attacked him with a knife after apparently learning he had been tricked by the

accused,8 the appellate court then looked to the only evidence left before the court – viz, the accused's admission that he intended to, and did, cause the injuries suffered by the older man. In its view, “the overwhelming number and severity of the wounds inflicted by the [accused] to vulnerable parts of the [older man's] body9 demonstrated, in and of itself, an intention to cause death [emphasis in original].10 Indeed, the court noted that this was reinforced by other aspects of the accused's evidence:11

The [accused] admitted that he knew he was stabbing [the older man] at the neck. He could not remember how many times he stabbed [the older man] but only stopped when [the older man's] body had become soft. On the [accused's] own evidence, [the older man] was unarmed for the most part and the [accused] suffered few injuries. Even if there was a struggle and the [accused] had instinctively stabbed [the older man], he could have stopped after the first (or even second) stab. Yet, he proceeded to stab and cut [the older man] 22 more times at vulnerable parts of [the older man's] body. Given our finding that [the older man] did not attack him, there was no reason for the [accused] to have been so vicious in his assault on [the older man] other than to kill [the older man]. His explanation that he only wanted [the older man] to loosen his grip on him and that he had stabbed [the older man's] neck because that was the only area he could stab is simply unbelievable. The fact that the [accused] had used his left hand to muzzle [the older man's] mouth when [the older man] started crying out after being stabbed is also incongruous with any intention to merely disable [the older man's] grip on him. In the circumstances, we find that the [accused] intended to cause the death of [the older man] at the time of the killing. [emphasis in original]

13.6 In a similar vein, the appellate court held that the accused must have intended to cause the son's death given:12

(a) the congregation of injuries13 to vulnerable parts of his body (face, neck, and scalp), which showed that the accused's attacks were targeted; and

(b) the sheer number of times he had stabbed and cut the son.

Mens rea for voluntarily causing hurt to deter public servant from duty under s 332

13.7 Public Prosecutor v Yeo Ek Boon Jeffrey14 involved an accused who pleaded guilty to slapping the cheek of a police officer who was performing his duty (“the victim”). This was an offence under s 332 of the Code, which reads as follows:

Voluntarily causing hurt to deter public servant from his duty

332. Whoever voluntarily causes hurt to any person being a public servant in the discharge of his duty as such public servant, or with intent to prevent or deter that person or any other public servant from discharging his duty as such public servant, or in consequence of anything done or attempted to be done by that person in the lawful discharge of his duty as such public servant, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 7 years, or with fine, or with caning, or with any combination of such punishments.

13.8 The accused was sentenced by a District Court to a week's imprisonment. The Prosecution appealed against this sentence.15 Mitigating for the accused before the High Court, the accused's counsel stated that the accused's actions were not intended to deter the victim from discharging his duty as a police officer. It was submitted that the accused was so intoxicated that he did not even realise that the victim was a police officer at the material time. In examining if the accused had thus qualified his plea, the High Court noted that the offence under s 332 of the Code comprises “three separate limbs which [relate to] the

different stages at which hurt is caused – during, before and after the discharge of duty as a public servant”.16

13.9 The presence of these three limbs is clear when the text in s 332 of the Code is broken up as follows:

Whoever voluntarily caused hurt to any person being a public servant:

[(a)] in the discharge of his duty as such public servant[;]

[(b)] with intent to prevent or deter that person or any other public servant from discharging his duty as such public servant[; or]

[(c)] in consequence of anything done or attempted to be done by that person in the lawful discharge of his duty as such public servant[,]

shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 7 years, or with fine, or with caning, or with any combination of such punishments.

13.10 It is clear that the actus reus of the offence is the causing of hurt.17 As to the mens rea of the offence, the High Court referred to two conjunctive limbs (the second of which is not immediately apparent from the section):18

(a) that the hurt was caused “voluntarily”; and

(b) with the knowledge that the victim is a public servant going about his duties.

13.11 The High Court noted:19

Although knowledge that the victim is a public servant going about his duties is not stated explicitly in s 332 of the Code, it cannot be right that someone who hit another person without even knowing that that person was a public servant going about his duties would be guilty of an offence under s 332.

That said, the court held that “the knowledge required is objective and not subjective knowledge”. As such:20

[If] an ordinary person would have such knowledge in the circumstances of the case, it is not open to the accused person to claim that he did not know. Hence, an intoxicated accused person would not be permitted to say that he was so drunk he was not aware of the

status of the victim and was merely lashing out at any person who was in his proximity or who went near him. Being in a state of intoxication would afford no defence to a charge under s 332 unless he could bring himself within the defence of intoxication in ss 85 or 86 of the [Code].

13.12 Noting the accused's counsel's confirmation that he was not qualifying the accused's plea of guilt, the High Court held:21

[The accused] must therefore be considered to have the objective knowledge that [the victim] was a police officer, particularly when [the victim] and his partner must have been in police uniform in the course of their duties that night. [While] the [accused] was drunk and hot-tempered, he was able to tell them not to touch him. The [accused] also pointed his finger at the police officers and uttered vulgarities at them. When [the victim] told him to mind his language, the [accused] could point at him and utter an offensive word before slapping [the victim's] left cheek. The [accused] might have been able to control himself better were he not drunk but … self-induced drunkenness could not be used as an excuse.

13.13 The additional requirement that an accused must know that the victim is a public servant going about his duties is to be welcomed. There must, after all, be some distinction in mens rea22 between an offence under s 332 of the...

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