Ismail bin Abdul Rahman v Public Prosecutor

CourtCourt of Three Judges (Singapore)
JudgeChao Hick Tin JA
Judgment Date03 March 2004
Neutral Citation[2004] SGCA 7
Citation[2004] SGCA 7
Defendant CounselAmarjit Singh (Deputy Public Prosecutor)
Published date09 March 2004
Docket NumberCriminal Appeal No 14 of 2003
Plaintiff CounselPeter Keith Fernando and Amarick Gill (Leo Fernando)
Date03 March 2004
Subject MatterStatutory offences,Criminal Law,Section 4 Arms Offences Act (Cap 14, 1998 Rev Ed),Arms Offences Act (Cap 14, 1998 Rev Ed),Whether statutory presumption rebutted,Choosing between two differing versions,Evidence,Appeal,Whether findings of fact should be disturbed,Criminal Procedure and Sentencing,Use of firearm with intent to injure,Whether statements were confessions,Assessment of veracity of witnesses,Confessions,Principles of appellate intervention,Proof of evidence

3 March 2004

Yong Pung How CJ (delivering the judgment of the court):

1 The appellant was charged in the High Court as follows:

That you, Ismail Bin Abdul Rahman, on the 7th day of March 2003, sometime between 5.30 am and 6.00 am, at Bukit Panjang Telecoms Exchange, located at 40 Woodlands Road, Singapore, did use an arm, namely, a .38 inch calibre Special Smith & Wesson revolver, by discharging three rounds from the said revolver, with intent to cause physical injury to one Rahim Bin Othman and you have thereby committed an offence punishable under section 4(1) of the Arms Offences Act, Chapter 14.

Rahim bin Othman (“the deceased”) subsequently died in hospital. The appellant, at trial, did not dispute that he had discharged the three rounds from the said revolver but claimed that he had done so unintentionally. He was convicted and sentenced to death.

2 He appealed against his conviction and sentence. We heard his appeal and dismissed it for the reasons we now give.


3 The uncontested facts are these. The appellant and the deceased were former colleagues. The deceased, an officer with the Commercial and Industrial Security Corporation (“CISCO”), was on overnight duty at Bukit Panjang Telecoms Exchange (“the Exchange”) from approximately 9.15pm on 6 March 2003. He had been issued a .38 calibre Special Smith and Wesson revolver (“the revolver”) and ten rounds of ammunition. The appellant was a former CISCO officer, known to the deceased and some others by his nickname “Mail”, who was working as a commercial diver in Indonesia. (The appellant had been absent without leave from his CISCO duties. Disciplinary action was taken against him, and his full-time employment with CISCO came to an end at the end of December 2002.)

4 On 6 March 2003, at approximately 11.20pm, the appellant went to the Exchange after returning to Singapore from Batam at about 9.30pm. The appellant testified that the deceased let him into the guardhouse and made him a drink. There was no one else there. They engaged in casual conversation and the topic of discussion soon came around to marksmanship. Sometime past 11.20pm, the deceased handed the revolver to the appellant and asked him to demonstrate shooting techniques, knowing that the appellant had been classified as a “marksman” during his time at CISCO. At around 2.30am on 7 March 2003, the deceased took back his revolver and went on his patrol duties; the appellant waited in the guardhouse. The deceased returned and they continued talking. According to the appellant, the deceased gave the revolver to him a second time at approximately 5.30am and asked him to demonstrate some shooting techniques again.

5 The appellant then caused three live rounds to be discharged from the revolver into the deceased. The appellant, thinking that his former colleague was dead, took the deceased’s revolver and bullet pouch of five rounds, an ash tray, a glass cup, all the closed-circuit television (“CCTV”) video tapes at the Exchange, $7 from the deceased’s wallet, and left for home. At his flat in Bukit Batok, the appellant placed the CCTV videotapes in the storeroom, kept the revolver and the bullets in a drawer in the master bedroom, and threw the ashtray and the cup into the rubbish chute.

6 The appellant went to the Hong Kah North Neighbourhood Police Post (“the NPP”) at about 9.15am on 7 March 2003. A team of Criminal Investigation Department (“CID”) officers, who had been tailing the appellant, entered the NPP soon after and arrested him.

7 The officer-in-charge of the CID team, Assistant Superintendent Abdul Halim bin Osman (“ASP Halim”), proceeded to interview the appellant. The appellant professed that the shooting was accidental and wrote a statement to that effect (“the self-written statement”). The Prosecution did not use this statement at trial.

8 In the course of police investigations, the appellant made four further statements (“the four statements”), which were in the nature of confessions to the investigating officer (“IO”), Inspector Roy Lim (“Insp Lim”):

(a) on 7 March 2003 at about 11.00am at the Bukit Batok bus interchange (“the first statement”);

(b) on 9 March 2003 at about 6.20pm at the CID (“the second statement”);

(c) on 13 March 2003 at about 2.30pm at the CID (“the third statement”); and

(d) on 20 March 2003 at about 3.55pm at the CID (“the fourth statement”).

We will deal with the circumstances relating to the taking of the four statements in greater detail below.

The Prosecution’s case

9 The contents of the four statements formed the backbone of the Prosecution’s case. In those statements, the appellant had stated that he had gone to the Exchange on 6 March 2003 with the intention to “get” a gun, and he knew that there would only be one CISCO guard stationed there. He had a “money problem” and needed the revolver to carry out his plan to rob the DBS bank at Bukit Batok Central. When the deceased handed the revolver (which was loaded with live rounds) to him at about 5.30am on 7 March 2003, he had fired two shots into the deceased’s left side in order to “get hold of the revolver”. The appellant knew that the revolver was loaded with live rounds, and that firing live rounds at someone could be fatal. The deceased thought that there had been a misfire and told the appellant that both of them should explain this to CISCO. The deceased had then wanted to use the telephone to inform his family and the ambulance services that he had been shot. The appellant, to prevent his plan from being foiled, fired a third shot into the deceased’s stomach.

10 The four statements were clearly in the nature of confessions. A confession, according to s 17(2) of the Evidence Act (Cap 97, 1997 Rev Ed) (“EA”) is “an admission made at any time by a person accused of an offence, stating or suggesting the inference that he committed that offence”. The test of whether a statement is a confession is an objective one, ie whether a reasonable person reading the statement would conclude that the appellant had committed the offence charged: Anandagoda v The Queen [1962] 1 MLJ 289, Chin Seow Noi v PP [1994] 1 SLR 135, Chai Chien Wei Kelvin v PP [1999] 1 SLR 25. The following excerpts from the appellant’s third statement illustrate this very clearly:

His left side of the body was facing me. My main target was to get hold of the revolver. So when he was not aware, I fired the revolver two times at the left side of his body.

He then asked me to pass the phone to him to call his wife and ambulance. I could not let him call because it would spoil my second plan. So I estimated at about 5.45am, I shot him one more time around the front part of his stomach … I thought that he was dead.

We now turn to the rest of the evidence presented by the Prosecution.

11 At about 6.00am on 27 March 2003, the deceased’s superior, Sergeant Chandrasaharan, had received a call from the deceased. The deceased informed Sgt Chandrasaharan that he had been shot by “Mail”. The deceased’s family received a similar call from him. When the deceased’s 19-year-old son spoke to him, the deceased sounded breathless and kept uttering some prayers. The police and the ambulance services were informed. Sgt Chandrasaharan went to the Exchange immediately and found the electronically controlled main gate opened. The deceased was in a supine position on the floor in the guardhouse, and he told Sgt Chandrasaharan that the appellant had shot him and then run away with the revolver.

12 Shortly thereafter, police officers arrived at the Exchange. Sgt Chandrasaharan related to them what the deceased had told him, and described the appellant to them as a male Malay in his thirties who was bald and had a stout build. This information was relayed to the Police Division Operations Room.

13 An ambulance arrived and the attending paramedic found three gunshot wounds at the front of the deceased’s body and an exit wound at his rear right waist area. The deceased went into cardiac arrest during emergency surgery and passed away at the hospital. The autopsy report stated that the certified cause of death was the multiple gunshot wounds to the abdomen. It also stated that there were three separate gunshot wounds, and that three slugs were recovered from the deceased’s body. According to the autopsy report, each gunshot wound was sufficient by itself to cause death in the ordinary course of nature.

14 The appellant’s wife testified that the appellant had returned to their Bukit Batok flat on 7 March 2003 at about 6.30am. He was perspiring. After sending their youngest son off to school, he sat in the kitchen, smoked a cigarette and ate his breakfast. He appeared to his wife to be disturbed about something. He told his wife he had gone to Batam the previous night and had arrived back in Singapore at about 1.00am on 7 March 2003. He then went to lie down on their bed. At about 8.15am, he left the flat with a white helmet and helmet bag. The appellant’s wife added that they did not have any financial problems during the earlier years of their marriage. From the middle of 2002, however, the appellant had incurred credit card debts and was facing financial difficulties.

15 ASP Halim testified that at about 8.50am on 7 March 2003, he received information that the appellant had been spotted at Bukit Batok Central. He and his team of officers arrived in the vicinity, and saw the appellant leaving the men’s toilet at the Bukit Batok bus interchange. They tailed him. The appellant took a bus to Bukit Gombak and walked towards the NPP. Sergeant Lim Tong Harn (“Sgt Lim”), who was on duty at the NPP, testified that the appellant walked into the NPP at about 9.15am, perspiring and panting. He had paced about carrying a bag, and looked out of the glass door anxiously. He told Sgt Lim that he was being chased. Sgt Lim then realised that the appellant fit the description of the person wanted in connection with the shooting. The appellant asked Sgt Lim for permission to use...

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