Iskandar bin Rahmat v Public Prosecutor and other matters

JurisdictionSingapore
JudgeSundaresh Menon CJ
Judgment Date03 February 2017
Neutral Citation[2017] SGCA 9
Plaintiff CounselWong Hin Pkin Wendell, Teo Ying Ying Denise, Bryan Wong (Drew & Napier LLC) and Terence Tan (Robertson Chambers LLC)
Date03 February 2017
Docket NumberCriminal Appeal No 39 of 2015, Criminal Motions Nos 14 and 17 of 2016
Hearing Date26 October 2016
Subject MatterSudden fight,Criminal Law,Adducing fresh evidence,Special exceptions,Diminished responsibility,Murder,Appeal,Criminal Procedure and Sentencing,Exceeding private defence,Offences
Year2017
Defendant CounselLee Lit Cheng, Lau Wing Yum, Prem Raj Prabakaran and Mansoor Amir (Attorney-General's Chambers)
CourtCourt of Appeal (Singapore)
Citation[2017] SGCA 9
Published date08 February 2017
Andrew Phang Boon Leong JA (delivering the judgment of the court): Introduction

This is an appeal against the conviction of the Appellant, Iskandar bin Rahmat, on two counts of murder under s 300(a) of the Penal Code (Cap 224, 2008 Rev Ed), punishable with death under s 302(1) of the Penal Code. The Appellant challenges the convictions on the basis that his actions do not show an intention to cause death, but instead (assuming that one or more of the exceptions to murder under s 300 does not apply) reflect only an intention to cause injuries sufficient in the ordinary course of nature to cause death under s 300(c) of the Penal Code, an offence which does not attract the mandatory death sentence. As just alluded to, he also relies upon three different exceptions to murder under s 300 of the Penal Code (including s 300(a) and (c)), namely, (a) Exception 2 (exceeding the right of private defence); (b) Exception 4 (sudden fight); and (c) Exception 7 (diminished responsibility). In the event that one or more of these exceptions applies, the Appellant argues for the imposition of a sentence of 10 years’ imprisonment under s 304(a) of the Penal Code. Finally, in the event that the court is of the view that the Appellant ought to be convicted under s 300(c) of the Penal Code instead, the Appellant argues for the imposition of a sentence of life imprisonment instead of the death sentence under s 302(2) of the Penal Code.

During the period leading up to the present appeal, the Appellant also filed two separate criminal motions, viz, Criminal Motion No 14 of 2016 (“CM 14/2016”) and Criminal Motion No 17 of 2016 (“CM 17/2016”). CM 14/2016 was filed on 19 July 2016 and is an application for leave to adduce a forensic pathology report by Dr Ong Beng Beng (“Dr Ong”) dated 13 July 2016 (“Dr Ong’s Pathology Report”). CM 17/2016 was filed on 5 August 2016 and is an application for leave to adduce a forensic psychiatric report by Dr John Bosco Lee (“Dr Lee”) dated 3 August 2016 (“Dr Lee’s Psychiatric Report”).

Facts

The background facts leading to the Appellant’s arrest have been covered comprehensively in the decision of the judge below (“the Judge”), which may be found at Public Prosecutor v Iskandar bin Rahmat [2015] SGHC 310 (“the Judgment”). Most of the facts are not disputed by the parties and we do not propose to repeat them here. What was of contention between the parties were the events that took place in the house of the first victim, Mr Tan Boon Sin (“D1”), over a period of about 30 minutes, and it suffices for the present appeal to focus on what had happened (or at least, what the Appellant alleges to have happened) during that period of time, save for the following key facts.

The Appellant was an investigation officer with the Singapore Police Force (“SPF”). Between 2012 and 2013, the Appellant started experiencing serious financial difficulties and was at risk of losing his job. The Appellant thus devised a plan to rob D1. D1 had stored a substantial sum of money in his safe deposit box at Certis CISCO (“CISCO”) which the Appellant knew about because he had previously come across a police report filed by D1 regarding some monies missing from the safe deposit box. The Appellant’s plan was to call D1 and introduce himself as a police officer. He would inform D1 that he had received information that the latter’s safe deposit box at CISCO would be “hit”, and that the latter should therefore remove its contents so that he could place a CCTV camera inside the safe deposit box. For this purpose, the Appellant had prepared a dummy CCTV camera which he placed in a box.

On 10 July 2013, the Appellant met D1 at a petrol station near CISCO and executed his plan. D1 agreed to put the CCTV camera in his safe deposit box as requested and left for CISCO. However, as the CCTV camera and the box could not fit into the safe deposit box, D1 initially did not carry out the Appellant’s instructions. When D1 returned to the petrol station, the Appellant told D1 that he could place the camera without its box in the safe deposit box. D1 again did as he was told and returned to CISCO. This time, he placed the camera into the safe deposit box successfully. D1 also removed the monies in his safe deposit box (we were informed that the sum was in excess of $600,000) and stored them in an orange bag that he had brought along for this purpose. D1 then returned to the petrol station to meet the Appellant. The Appellant, on the pretext of escorting D1 as D1 was carrying a lot of money, then followed D1 in D1’s car to D1’s house.

As alluded to earlier, what happened in D1’s house is a matter of contention between the parties. We note at the outset that the Appellant does not dispute stabbing D1 and his son, Mr Tan Chee Heong (“D2”), in D1’s house and that the injuries were fatal. What the Appellant contends is that his version of events of what transpired in D1’s house shows that he had no intention to cause the death of either victim. It is to the Appellant’s account of events that we now turn, which as the Judge noted at [19] of the Judgment, is the only account available.

The Appellant’s version

According to the Appellant, he and D1 had arrived at the latter’s house within a relatively short space of time. After the car was parked, D1 closed the gate. The Appellant and D1 then entered the house. D1 left the orange bag which contained the contents of his safe deposit box (and which contained an enormous sum of money in excess of $600,000) near the staircase that led up to the second floor of the house and went into the kitchen to get a drink for the Appellant. The Appellant alleged that he had wanted to grab the orange bag and run at that point, but did not do so as the outer gate was closed and he did not know how to open it. He then told D1 that he wanted to go outside to smoke, thereby getting D1 to open the gate. The Appellant accordingly went outside the house to smoke.

When he returned, he told D1 not to close the gate as his “partner” was about to arrive. D1 complied. The Appellant then asked to use the toilet, and D1 showed him to it (the toilet was inside the utility room adjoining the kitchen). The Appellant alleges that while in the toilet, he prepared himself “to walk out, grab the bag and run away”. However, when he came out of the toilet, he realised the bag was no longer by the staircase. He panicked and looked around cursorily for the bag but could not find it.

D1 was then in the living room using his mobile phone, allegedly speaking in Hokkien. The Appellant returned to the living room and pretended to receive some communication on his fake “walkie talkie”. He told D1 that someone had opened his safe deposit box, and that D1 should grab the orange bag and the two of them would return to CISCO. D1 appeared to be shocked. He then headed into the kitchen and used the corded phone there. At this juncture, the Appellant was in the living room near the organ.

D1 then emerged from the kitchen and started walking towards the Appellant at a normal pace with his arms by his side. D1 said to the Appellant in Malay that the Appellant had cheated him as the CCTV camera did not contain any batteries. The Appellant was surprised at being discovered and told D1 that the CCTV did not require batteries. D1 did not respond and continued walking towards the Appellant. D1 came down the flight of steps connecting the dining room to the living room and then brandished a knife in his right hand. D1 raised his right arm and brought the knife down on the Appellant. The Appellant grabbed D1’s hand but D1 pulled it away. This caused the knife to cut the Appellant’s right hand. D1 came at the Appellant again in the same manner, but this time, the Appellant managed to wrest the knife from D1’s hand. The Appellant alleges that he could not remember how he did this as it all happened very quickly.

D1 then started pulling at the Appellant. In response, the Appellant swung the knife at D1’s neck in a right to left motion. The Appellant alleges that D1 remained strong and continued to tug at the Appellant and even tried to punch him. The Appellant therefore continued to stab D1. D1 started to shout “Ah… Ah…”, and the Appellant used his left hand to cover D1’s mouth to stop him from shouting. D1 bit his hand in return. As the Appellant tried to pull his left hand away, he stabbed D1 a few more times at the neck area. The Appellant stabbed D1 until “his body became soft” and when D1’s grip eventually weakened, the Appellant slowly lowered D1 to the floor.

The Appellant remembered stabbing D1 five to six times, though he acknowledged that the autopsy reports showed a lot more wounds. When asked why he stabbed D1 so many times, the Appellant’s response was “I do not know”. The Appellant testified that he was panicking at that point in time. He said that he was not aiming to kill D1 or for any vital areas, and that he just wanted to get D1 off him so he could run away. The Appellant claimed he was “fearing for [his] life” and that, due to the struggle, he could only swing the knife towards the neck of D1.

As the Appellant laid D1 on the floor, he heard someone, ie, D2, shout “Pa!” from the front door. The Appellant was still near the organ and D2 was two to three steps away from the Appellant. D2 charged at the Appellant with his hands clenched and swung his right fist at the Appellant. The Appellant blocked the blow with his left hand and intended to retaliate by punching D2 with his right hand. He alleged that he did not realise the knife was still in his right hand and he ended up stabbing D2 in the neck or face area. The Appellant testified that his immediate concern was to “run for [his] life”, but D2 stood between him and the front door. D2 continued to punch and pull at the Appellant, and the Appellant swung his arms wildly in a state of panic, thereby stabbing D2 further. He testified that he was not...

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