Goh Joon Tong and Another v Public Prosecutor

JudgeKarthigesu JA
Judgment Date25 August 1995
Neutral Citation[1995] SGCA 68
Docket NumberCriminal Appeal No 9 of 1995
Date25 August 1995
Published date19 September 2003
Plaintiff CounselEdmond Pereira and Rey Foo (Edmond Pereira & Pnrs)
Citation[1995] SGCA 68
Defendant CounselN Ganesan and Anthony Soh (N Ganesan & Associates),Sowaran Singh (Deputy Public Prosecutor)
CourtCourt of Appeal (Singapore)
Subject MatterCriminal Procedure and Sentencing,Confessions,Whether evidence against accused,s 30 Evidence Act (Cap 97, 1990 Ed),'Same offence',Proof of evidence,Procedure,Whether s 30 of Evidence Act applied,Admissibility of evidence adduced,Whether judge could postpone decision on voir dire of one accused until after completion of co-accused's voir dire,Confession of co-accused,Words and Phrases,Accused charged with abetment of offence,Co-accused charged with committing offence,Evidence,Whether evidence could be used in voir dire of a co-accused,Voir dire

The appellants and one Tan Seng Kim (Tan) were jointly tried before the High Court on charges under the Misuse of Drugs Act (Cap 185) (the Act). Tan was charged for attempting to export to Spain 226 rubber pellets containing not less than 871.77g of diamorphine and the appellants were both charged for abetting Tan in the commission of that offence. All of them were convicted. Only the appellants appealed against their convictions. We dismissed their appeals and now give our reasons.

The prosecution case

On 15 April 1994 Tan was under surveillance by officers from the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB). They saw him leaving his home at Blk 201B, Tampines St 21 #04-1063 and walking to Blk 201E, Tampines St 23. A short while later the first appellant, Goh Joon Tong (Goh), was seen in his car driving up to Tan, who then got into the car. A few moments later, Tan came out of the car and was seen holding a white envelope and appearing to be counting the contents of the envelope. Goh returned in his car to the same place a few minutes later, picked up Tan and drove to a car park behind Blk 201E where the two of them appeared to have a conversation. Thereafter, Tan was seen leaving the car and carrying a pink plastic bag, and Goh drove off. Tan returned to his flat with the plastic bag.

On the following day, 16 April 1994, CNB officers again kept a surveillance on Tan`s flat.
They saw him leaving the flat and carrying a suitcase and a briefcase. He took a taxi to Changi Airport Terminal 2 and all the way he was trailed by the CNB officers. At the airport Tan checked in for flight SQ 342 to Madrid. He checked in his suitcase and went about the airport. Eventually he made his way to the screening room of the departure gate for his flight. There he was stopped by ASP Lim Chei Yoo who took him to the search room in the screening room and asked him if he had anything to surrender. Tan took out a rubber pellet from his trouser pocket which he admitted to be heroin. He was placed under arrest and his briefcase was searched but nothing incriminating was found.

The CNB officers retrieved Tan`s luggage.
As they were on their way to pick up the luggage Tan said in Hokkien `this time hang`. ASP Lim asked him if there was any drug in his luggage and he admitted that there was. After Tan had identified his suitcase and told the officers the combination to its lock, he was then taken together with the suitcase to the CNB office at the airport. In the office he told ASP Lim that there were 225 pellets packed in three fruit boxes in the suitcase and that he was paid $100 for each pellet.

The suitcase was opened and three `Dodol` boxes were found inside which contained a total of 225 pellets in rubber covering.
These pellets together with the pellet surrendered by Tan formed the subject matter of the charge against him.

Goh was arrested at 1.50am on 17 April 1994 at Bedok Industrial Park E, as he was going to his car.
After his arrest the car was searched, but nothing incriminating was found. At about 3.55pm, CNB officers went with him to the flat at Blk 710, Bedok Reservoir Rd, #09-3128 which he occupied. The flat was searched but no drugs were found. During the search the officers found and recovered a bunch of six keys which Goh said belonged to his old house but subsequently on 23 April 1994 admitted that the keys were to a house in Batam. The CNB officers also searched two other flats at Blk 230, Tampines St 24, namely, #06-132, where his mother was staying and #05-130, where his wife and children were staying, but again no drugs were found.

The second appellant (Ko) was arrested on 17 April 1994 at about 2.10am at his residence at Blk 119, Simei St 1, #08-518.
The CNB officers found no drugs or drug paraphernalia there. They also searched his car but nothing incriminating was found.

Examination of the recovered property

The 226 pellets recovered from Tan were sent to the Department of Scientific Services for examination and on analysis were found to contain a total of not less than 871.77g of diamorphine. The three `Dodol` boxes recovered from Tan`s suitcase bore inscriptions `75`, `75` and `M55` and `M60` respectively at the bottom. These inscriptions with the specimen handwriting in Ko`s pocket diary and other handwriting specimens taken from him were examined by a government document examiner, Mrs Ng Gek Kwee, and she found a high degree of similarity between the handwriting specimens and the inscriptions and opined that the evidence was consistent that the maker of the specimen handwritings wrote the inscriptions at the bottom of the `Dodol` boxes.

Tan`s statements

Two statements were recorded from Tan: a short statement under s 122(6) of the Criminal Procedure Code (the Code) and a long one under s 121 of the Code. A voir dire was conducted by the learned trial judge to determine the admissibility of these statements and he found that they had been made by Tan voluntarily. Accordingly, the statements were admitted in evidence.

Similarly, two statements each were recorded from Goh and Ko respectively under ss 122(6) and 121 of the Code.
The learned trial judge also held separate voir dires to determine the admissibility of their statements respectively. He first held a voir dire to determine the admissibility of the statements recorded from Goh (Goh`s voir dire) but at the conclusion he deferred making a decision thereon and then proceeded to hold a voir dire to determine the admissibility of the statements recorded from Ko (Ko`s voir dire). At the conclusion of Ko`s voir dire he held that the statements recorded from Goh and those from Ko had been voluntarily made.

Tan`s s 121 statement implicated Goh.
Briefly, in so far as material, Tan said that he was given `the heroin in the three packets of `Dodol` boxes` on 15 April 1994 at 12.35pm at the main road in front of the Afghanistan Restaurant, St 23, Tampines, and Goh asked him to deliver the heroin to his contacts in Barcelona, Spain, and for his services he would be paid $100 for each rubber pellet. He further said that two or three days prior to that date, he was asked by Goh to book an airline ticket to Barcelona via Madrid, and on 14 April 1994 Goh telephoned him and asked him to wait in front of the Afghanistan Restaurant. Accordingly, at the appointed time he went there and Goh came in his Mercedes Benz motor car and gave him the three `Dodol` boxes containing heroin in a light transparent plastic bag and one rubber pellet.

Goh`s and Ko`s statements

The statement recorded from Goh under s 122(6) of the Code was as follows:

I admit that I give him [Tan] the ` lobang` and he did everything himself. If anything happened he bears the responsibility. He was the one who want to do this thing. He was in trouble with financial difficulties. I helped him by bringing back money from people overseas.

A long statement was recorded from Goh under s 121 of the Code, and the material portions read as follows:

... Jeffrey Tan paged me on my pager 7096643 asked me to arrange for him to deliver heroin to Barcelona. I checked with my contacts in Bangkok. The telephone number is 4817693 and the person is known to me as `Lau Eh`. A few days later I was contacted and told to go to Batam and collect the heroin. I went to Batam with a friend of mine known as Koland, whom I know for ten years through my brother. There at Batam, we were met by the Jakarta syndicate. I wish to state that Koland and myself have the key to heroin store at Batam. There, I and Koland told that three boxes of heroin pellets were needed by Jeffrey Tan. We told this to the Jakarta syndicate. The three boxes were packed by Koland and the Jakarta syndicate. After the packing we counted that there was 225 pellets of heroin. The 225 pellets were packed into three Jamilah Dodol boxes and Koland after counting the heroin pellets marked the boxes with the amount of heroin pellets it contained. ... The Jakarta syndicate then brought and handed the three boxes of heroin to me in Singapore on 15 April 1994 at about 12 noon at Tampines Junior College inside a plastic bag. I then contacted Jeffrey Tan at his house at Tampines and asked him to meet me at St 23, Tampines, in front of a coffee shop at about 12.30pm on the 15 April 1994. I drove my car and upon reaching the spot I saw Jeffrey awaiting for me. I handed him three boxes containing 225 pellets of heroin and one pellet of heroin for Jeffrey to deliver these heroin to the Barcelona syndicate. My commission was $10 per pellet of heroin. The commission for Koland was $10 per pellet of heroin. ...

In his statement recorded under s 122(6) of the Code, Ko said:

I knew the heroin pellets were to be brought to Madrid by Jeffrey. Lau Goh was to bring the rubber pellets of heroin from Batam and hand it to Jeffrey. The date and the time that Jeffrey would leave Singapore was not known to me. The arrangements with Jeffrey was made by Lau Goh. Lau Goh was arrested by CNB. I was to assist Lau Goh to earn a commission. ...

Again, a long statement was recorded from Ko under s 121 of the Code, and the material portions stated as follows:

4 The occasion that Lau Goh and me were involved in the delivery of heroin to Madrid, Spain was in mid-April 1994. About one week before the arrest of Jeffrey Tan by the CNB, I went with Lau Goh to Batam there again. Lau Goh and myself went to the rental house in Batam and took out the balance of heroin pellets that were left behind and packed them into the Dodol boxes and sealed them. The marking behind the boxes were written by me when I first received the heroin pellets from `Botak` on the first occasion. `Botak` handed to me and Goh the heroin pellets in the Dodol boxes, and when we went back to the rental house we counted the contents and marked behind each box the amount it contained.

... I went to Batam on 9 April 1994 at about 2pm with Lau Goh and his family. After we arrived at Batam, Lau Goh`s family and...

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