Goh Soon Huat v Public Prosecutor

JudgeGoh Joon Seng J
Judgment Date10 February 1995
Neutral Citation[1995] SGCA 13
Docket NumberCriminal Appeal No 43 of 1994
Date10 February 1995
Published date19 September 2003
Plaintiff CounselLim Choon Mong (Lim & Lim) and Wong Siew Hong (Teh Yip & Wong)
Citation[1995] SGCA 13
Defendant CounselPO Ram (Deputy Public Prosecutor)
CourtCourt of Appeal (Singapore)
Subject MatterCriminal Law,Failure to send accused for medical examination before and after statement,Voluntariness,Statutory offences,Defence of self consumption,(follow title of statute: eg misuse of drugs act),Criminal Procedure and Sentencing,Whether rebutted,Presumption of trafficking,Statements,s 121(1) Criminal Procedure Code (Cap 68),Effect of drug withdrawal on the drug user's medical and psychological condition and on the voluntariness of his statements,Admissibility,Trafficking in controlled drugs,ss 5 & 17 Misuse of Drugs Act (Cap 185)

Cur Adv Vult

The appellant, Goh Soon Huat, was convicted by the High Court on 25 October 1994 on a charge pursuant to s 17 of the Misuse of Drugs Act (Cap 185) (the Act) of trafficking in 69.34g of diamorphine contained in 48 sachets of the substance by being found in possession of them at Thomson Plaza, Upper Thomson Road, Singapore, at about 1pm on 4 April 1994. The appellant was duly sentenced to death. The appellant has appealed against his conviction.

At about 1pm on 4 April 1994, the appellant was arrested by officers from the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) at Thomson Plaza.
A black briefcase containing 48 sachets of diamorphine with a gross weight of not less than 380.6g and a diamorphine content of not less than 69.34g was seized from him together with a handphone, a pager and nearly $20,000 in cash. It was not disputed at the trial that these items belonged to him nor was it disputed that he was there to traffic in drugs.

The operation leading to the appellant`s arrest was set up following the detention of one Azman bin Ahmad (Azman) when Azman reported at the Ang Mo Kio Police Station pursuant to a police supervision order.
Azman accompanied officers from the CNB to Yishun. There he paged for the appellant. After speaking to the appellant, he told the officers that his supplier, whom he had earlier told them was called `Ah Soon` and whom he had identified when shown the appellant`s photograph, was going down to Thomson Plaza at 1pm to meet him. The ensuing trap led to the appellant`s arrest.

Urine samples obtained from the appellant shortly after his arrest showed that there was 931 m g of morphine in 5ml of his urine.
At 4.15pm on the same day, he was sent for his pre-statement medical examination. A cautioned statement under s 122(6) of the Criminal Procedure Code (Cap 68) (the CPC) was recorded from him and he was then sent for his post-statement examination. The prosecution neither relied on this statement nor any inference that may be drawn under s 123 of the CPC.

At about 8.20pm, CNB Sgt Lio Keun Chai (Sgt Lio) and Cpl Tan Sok Hwee interrogated the appellant at CNB Headquarters.
Sometime around 5.45am, the next day the appellant suffered drug withdrawal and was rushed to Changi Prison Hospital. He was treated by Dr Leow Kee Fong (Dr Leow) who prescribed him two days` supply of Lomotil for his diarrhoea and was discharged on 7 April 1994.

On 8 April 1994 the appellant was again interrogated by Sgt Lio and another narcotics officer.
On 11 April 1994, the first of two long statements under s 121(1) of the CPC (the long statements) was recorded from the appellant by the investigating officer, W/Insp Chong Wee Kee (W/Insp Chong) through the interpretation of CNB interpreter Wu Nan Yong. The second of the long statements was taken from the appellant on 14 April 1994.

The appellant`s defence was that he was at Thomson Plaza only to traffic in ten sachets of heroin.
It was not disputed that the ten sachets contained less than the threshhold 15g of diamorphine. He maintained that the remaining 38 sachets were for his own consumption. We will deal later with this part of the defence, which the learned trial judge called `the ten-sachet theme`. The appellant also said that the long statements were not obtained from him voluntarily, that he was suffering from the effects of drug withdrawal at the time the long statements were taken, that he was threatened by Sgt Lio and that he was offered inducement in the form of promises to send him to see the doctor. To crown it all, he claimed that, with the exception of parts of his personal particulars, the long statements were concocted by W/Insp Chong and Wu Nan Yong. These allegations naturally become the subject matter of a voir dire.

The learned trial judge held that the allegations made against W/Insp Chong, Wu Nan Yong and the interrogation teams led by Sgt Lio were an afterthought.
The learned trial judge was satisfied that the long statements were given voluntarily by the appellant. We agree with his decision.

We accept Sgt Lio and W/Insp Chong`s evidence that the interrogations led by Sgt Lio were for the purpose of finding out the appellant`s supplier and that W/Insp Chong did not know what happened during the interrogations.
While the interrogations conducted before the recording of the long statements are a cause for concern, we are satisfied that they were not conducted for the purpose of `softening up` the appellant for the recording of the long statements. We are satisfied that no threats were made by Sgt Lio or any of the officers with him and that the appellant was not ill-treated or assaulted. The inability of the appellant to recall with any amount of certainty or conviction what the threats were and the inability of the appellant to recall how he was ill-treated did absolutely no good in substantiating his allegations.

We also reject the appellant`s allegation that he cooperated by giving the long statements because Sgt Lio promised to send him to the hospital.
This was never put to Sgt Lio and contradicts the appellant`s own evidence that Sgt Lio had told him that he would not send the appellant to the hospital. It is hard to believe that the appellant is so naive that despite his own evidence that Sgt Lio `cheated` him by going back on his promise to send the appellant to the hospital he was willing to give the long statements without in any way confirming with Sgt Lio or W/Insp Chong that they would send him for treatment.

The appellant testified that the statements were pre-prepared and that he was only at the sessions with W/Insp Chong to sign them.
He was unable to explain why in that case the two sessions took two hours and forty minutes and one and a half hour respectively. The appellant`s explanation for his signing the long statements vacillated between having been threatened by Sgt Lio to having been in a daze due to drug withdrawal. He would have us believe that a seasoned drug user like him did not know that the charge carried a death sentence. He testified that he did not even understand the gist of the statements he was signing because Wu Nan Yong`s Hokkien was too `profound` for him. Yet, he understood perfectly well what the contents of the statements were when these were interpreted to him by the court interpreter. We do not accept that this is because Wu Nan Yong`s Hokkien was `more profound`. It was his own evidence that Wu only used a few profound words. The appellant`s inability to say whether the part he understood contained the incriminating evidence was also telling in that he conveniently shifted his position to not knowing the contents of the statements apart from his particulars at all. In our view, this characteristic meandering is fatal to the appellant`s testimony.

Counsel for the appellant made much of the language and contents of the statements in arguing that the statements originated from either W/Insp Chong or Wu Nan Yong.
In our view, counsel`s reliance on this is misplaced. Wu Nan Yong had candidly admitted that he had to occasionally depart from a literal translation because such an interpretation of what the appellant had said would render the result incomprehensible. An example given by Wu Nan Yong in his testimony was the phrase `Criminal Law detention` for ` ngor chap ngor ` which in Hokkien means `55` and obviously refers to s 55 of the Criminal Law (Temporary Provisions) Act. We are quite unable to accept that someone like the appellant who has been in the drugs scene since 1968 has never heard of the phrase `chasing the dragon` or its Hokkien equivalent ` tui leng `, as the appellant would have us believe. We accept Wu Nan Yong`s evidence that the statements were merely his translation of what the appellant had told him and we agree with the learned trial judge that the allegations of concoction were fabricated by the appellant.

Counsel for the appellant also placed much weight on the argument that the appellant was suffering from drug withdrawal at the time when he gave the statements.
In our view, the appellant`s evidence of his condition had been greatly exaggerated. Dr Leow`s evidence was that the appellant was only suffering from moderate heroin withdrawal symptoms. The appellant`s expert witness, Dr Lim Yun Chin (Dr Lim)...

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3 cases
  • Lee Yuan Kwang and Others v Public Prosecutor
    • Singapore
    • Court of Appeal (Singapore)
    • 20 April 1995
    ... ... This man looked familiar to him. He eventually recognized him as Yakoob when he got nearer to him. He said he handed the bag to Yakoob as soon as they met. They sat down on a nearby bench and had a brief conversation before proceeding to the entrance of the shopping mall where they parted ... We see no reason to differ from the trial judge`s conclusions in this regard. We adopt the approach taken by the court in ... In Goh Soon Huat , the Court of Appeal observed that even if it could be accepted that the accused was capable of consuming drugs at the phenomenal rate alleged, it ... ...
  • Public Prosecutor v Abdul Razak Bin Abdul Kadir
    • Singapore
    • District Court (Singapore)
    • 10 November 2008
    ...did not go with the statement he was making. In this regard, it is useful to refer to the Court of Appeal case of Goh Soon Huat v PP [1995] 1 SLR 634. In that case, the appellant, Goh, was arrested and found in possession of not less than 69.34g of heroin. After his arrest, Goh gave a state......
  • Public Prosecutor v Raju s/o Andiappan
    • Singapore
    • District Court (Singapore)
    • 31 July 2008
    ...did not go with the statement he was making. In this regard, it is useful to refer to the Court of Appeal case of Goh Soon Huat v PP [1995] 1 SLR 634. In that case, the appellant, Goh, was arrested and found in possession of not less than 69.34g of heroin. After his arrest, Goh gave a state......

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