Dinesh Pillai a/l K Raja Retnam v PP

JurisdictionSingapore
CourtCourt of Three Judges (Singapore)
Judgment Date04 April 2012
Docket NumberCriminal Appeal No 6 of 2011
Date04 April 2012

Court of Appeal

Chan Sek Keong CJ

,

Andrew Phang Boon Leong JA

and

V K Rajah JA

Criminal Appeal No 6 of 2011

Dinesh Pillai a/l K Raja Retnam
Plaintiff
and
Public Prosecutor
Defendant

Eugene Thuraisingam, Mervyn Cheong Jun Ming and Kenneth Chua Han Yuan (Stamford Law Corporation) for the appellant

Aedit Abdullah SC, Geraldine Tan and Wong Woon Kwong (Attorney-General's Chambers) for the respondent.

Khor Soon Lee v PP [2011] 3 SLR 201 (refd)

Nagaenthran a/l KDharmalingam v PP [2011] 4 SLR 1156 (folld)

Constitution of the Republic of Singapore (1985 Rev Ed, 1999 Reprint) Art 93

Criminal Procedure Code (Cap 68, 1985 Rev Ed) ss 121, 122 (6)

Misuse of Drugs Act (Cap 185, 2008 Rev Ed) s 18 (2) (consd) ; ss 18 (1) , 33

Criminal Law—Statutory offences—Misuse of Drugs Act (Cap 185, 2008 Rev Ed)—Importing controlled drugs without authorisation—Drugs contained in brown packet—Appellant arguing that he did not know contents of packet—Whether appellant had requisite knowledge for finding liability under s 7 Misuse of Drugs Act (Cap 185, 2008 Rev Ed)—Section 7 Misuse of Drugs Act (Cap 185, 2008 Rev Ed)

Evidence—Proof of evidence—Presumptions—Presumptions under s 18 Misuse of Drugs Act (Cap 185, 2008 Rev Ed)—Whether appellant able to rebut presumption of knowledge in s 18 (2) Misuse of Drugs Act—Section 18 (2) Misuse of Drugs Act (Cap 185, 2008 Rev Ed)

The appellant was introduced by a friend to a person called Raja. According to the appellant, Raja paid him to deliver ‘food’ wrapped in brown packets to Singapore. During the third such delivery, the appellant was detained at Woodlands Immigration Checkpoint, where diamorphine was found inside the brown packet to be delivered by the appellant on that occasion (‘the Brown Packet’).

The appellant claimed that he did not know that the Brown Packet contained controlled drugs, let alone diamorphine. When he asked his friend and Raja about the contents of the brown packets to be delivered on the first and second occasions, he was simply told that it was a secret. He was also warned not to open the brown packets. The appellant admitted that he did not ascertain the contents of the Brown Packet despite having the opportunity to do so and despite suspecting that it did not contain food.

The trial judge (‘the Judge’) convicted the appellant of importing diamorphine into Singapore, an offence under s 7 and punishable under s 33 of the Misuse of Drugs Act (Cap 185, 2008 Rev Ed) (‘the MDA’). The Judge found that the appellant had actual knowledge that he was carrying a controlled drug. In the light of this, he decided that the appellant had not rebutted the presumption under s 18 (2) of the MDA (‘the s 18 (2) MDA presumption’) that he knew that the controlled drug which he was carrying was diamorphine.

The appellant appealed against the Judge's decision on the basis that the Judge was wrong to find that he had actual knowledge that the Brown Packet contained a controlled drug and that s 18 (2) of the MDA had been triggered. He also argued that the Judge erred or was wrong in finding that he had not rebutted the s 18 (2) MDA presumption that he knew that the controlled drug in the Brown Packet was diamorphine.

Held, dismissing the appeal:

(1) Since the appellant was in actual physical possession of the Brown Packet, he was presumed under s 18 (1) of the MDA to have had the controlled drug in that packet in his possession. The appellant failed to rebut this presumption. It was therefore unnecessary for the court to decide the issue of whether the Prosecution had proved beyond reasonable doubt that the appellant had, in law, possession of the diamorphine found in the Brown Packet: at [16] and [17].

(2) Since the appellant was presumed under s 18 (1) of the MDA to have had possession of the controlled drug in the Brown Packet, s 18 (2) of the MDA was triggered. This provided that the appellant was presumed to have known, unless the contrary was proved, that the controlled drug which he was carrying was diamorphine (see Nagaenthran a/l KDharmalingam v PP[2011] 4 SLR 1156): at [19].

(3) The crucial question in relation to the s 18 (2) MDA presumption in this case was whether it could be rebutted or proved to the contrary by the appellant's bare assertion of lack of knowledge. On his own account, the appellant did not believe Raja, who told him that he was only being asked to deliver food. Also, there was no evidence to show that it was not reasonably expected of the appellant, in the circumstances, to open the Brown Packet to see what was in it. The appellant himself conceded that he had the opportunity to easily verify what the Brown Packet contained by simply opening the packet. In the view of the court, it was not enough for the appellant to take the position that he did not open the Brown Packet because he had been told by Raja not to do so. By neglecting or refusing to take reasonable steps to find out what he was delivering in circumstances where a reasonable person having the suspicions that he had would have done so, the appellant had failed to rebut the s 18 (2) MDA presumption: at [21] and [22].

Judgment reserved.

Chan Sek Keong CJ

(delivering the judgment of the court):

Introduction

1 This is an appeal by one Dinesh Pillai a/l KRaja Retnam (‘the appellant’) against his conviction by the High Court judge (‘the Judge’) in Public Prosecutor v Dinesh Pillai a/l KRaja Retnam [2011] SGHC 95 (‘the Judgment’) of the following charge under the Misuse of Drugs Act (Cap 185, 2008 Rev Ed) (‘the MDA’):

YOU ARE CHARGED at the instance of the Attorney-General as Public Prosecutor and the charges against you are:

That you, DINESH PILLAI A/L KRAJA RETNAM,

on 19 December 2009, at about 9.05 p.m., in a Malaysian registered motorcycle bearing registration number JKR 3019, at the Woodlands Checkpoint, Singapore, did import into Singapore a controlled drug specified in...

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