Koh Chong Bok v Public Prosecutor

CourtMagistrates' Court (Singapore)
JudgeAdam Nakhoda
Judgment Date29 March 2001
Neutral Citation[2001] SGMC 15
Citation[2001] SGMC 15
Published date19 September 2003

JUDGMENT:

Grounds of Decision

THE CHARGE

1. The accused Koh Chong Bok claimed trial to the following amended charge, marked P1B;

You,

Name : Koh Chong Bok, Male/60 years old

NRIC No. : S0939890-H

Nationality : Singaporean

Address : Blk 83 Bedok North Road #03-378

are charged that you on the 3rd day of December 1997 at "Nam Pih Association" located at No. 584A Geylang Road, Singapore, being the occupier of the said place, did permit such place to be used by another person as a common gaming house, to wit, a place used for gaming which any class of the public may have access to, and you have thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 4(1)(b) of the Common Gaming Houses Act, Chapter 49.

2. After a three-day trial I found the accused guilty of the above charge and I accordingly sentenced him to six months imprisonment and a $20,000 fine in default of which he would serve two months imprisonment. The accused has not paid the fine and is currently serving sentence.

THE PROSECUTION CASE

3. The Prosecution called a total of ten witnesses, which I have classified into three groups. The first group are the arresting officer, the investigation officer, the Gambling Suppression Branch expert and a witness from the Registry of Societies. The Prosecution also called Deputy Superintendent Lim Liang Boo who was the police officer that issued the search warrant. There is no contention by the Defence that the search warrant or the raid was procedurally irregular and therefore I do not intend to examine DSP Lims evidence. The police witnesses were called to show that there was illegal gambling being conducted at the premises of the Association and that the accused permitted the gambling.

4. The next group is three of the gamblers who were present at the premises and subsequently pleaded guilty to a charge of gaming in a Common Gaming House. This group of witnesses were called to demonstrate that the there was gambling taking place at the premises, that they paid a consideration for the privilege of gambling at the Association premises and that they were all non-members.

5. The final group of witnesses is the President and a committee member of the Nam Pih Association. These witnesses were called to show that apart from the accused no one at the Association on the 3rd of December was a member of the Association.

A. The Police witnesses.

i. Sgt. Ho Hock Lye (PW1)

6. Sgt. Ho Hock Lye (hereinafter "Sgt. Ho") was deployed in 1997 to carry out undercover observation of gaming activities at the premises of the Nam Pih Association (hereinafter "the Association"). The Prosecution tendered his Gambling Observation Diary (hereinafter "the observation diary") that details his observations at the Association, this document was admitted and marked P15. From the observation diary Sgt. Ho informed the Court that he had carried out observations on the 7th, 16th and 27th of November, each lasting about 30 minutes and that during each observation he observed a group of Chinese men and women playing mahjong.

7. In cross-examination Sgt. Ho said that the door to the premises was never closed and he would enter the premises on each occasion on the pretext of looking for someone. He said that he would mention a fictitious name in a manner as if he was looking for that person. Sgt. Ho in evidence said that he would do the following, (at page 15C of the Notes of Evidence);

Q. You mentioned earlier, you went to look for someone and you mentioned a name. Can I say that since you mentioned a name to someone it is possible you spoke to someone on the premises?

A. Can I give an example of such a situation. Presuming a group of people are in this place. I walk in and I ask "Has Ms. Lim come?" I am not talking directly to any individual, if the group is sitting there. I would walk towards them and ask that briefly, this is to help me to disguise myself so I did not have any real conversation with anyone.

Q. Did those people there reply to you?

A. I cannot recall if anyone replied to me.

8. Sgt. Ho said that he observed by leaning at one of the doors and looking into the room. He further said that during the three observations he made prior to the raid on the 3rd of December 1997 he said that none of the gamblers present were the same as the gamblers who were arrested on the 3rd of December. Sgt. Ho also could not recall if he saw the accused during his earlier observations.

9. Further to his observations a search warrant was issued for the Association premises and pursuant to this a raid was conducted on the 3rd of December 1997. Upon arrival at the Association Sgt. Ho said that he observed that there were 13 people in the premises. Inside one of the rooms, with the caption "Dipector" on the door, Sgt. Ho observed that there were two tables set up one with a group of four people playing mahjong and another with a group of four people playing gin rummy with tiles. The other five people were not playing any games.

10. From the two tables and the premises the following exhibits were seized, two mahjong schedules (P16 and P17), a warning letter from the Registry of Societies (P19), mahjong tiles (P20), chips (P21), dice (P22), wind indicator (P23), gin rummy tiles (P24) and dice (P25).

ii. Sgt. Lee Seow How (PW2)

11. Sgt. Lee Seow How (hereinafter "Sgt. Lee") was attached to the Gambling Suppression Branch of the C.I.D. He had conducted an examination of the exhibits seized from the Association, the arrest report and the statements of two of the arresting officers and he had expressed his opinion in the form of a statement, admitted and marked as PS2.

12. Sgt. Lee found, at paragraph 5 and 6 of PS2, as follows;

"5 The mahjong tiles can be used to play a game of Mahjong which is a schedule game. It is a game of mixed skill and chance. Such game is usually played for money or moneys worth.

6 The English tiles can be used to play various kinds of schedule game as defined in the Common Gaming Houses Act, Chapter 49. Such games are usually played for money or moneys worth. Two or more persons may participate in the game.

13. It was Sgt. Lees evidence that the two mahjong schedules (P16 and P17) were used for the calculation of stakes and points. He said that the amount of winnings a person would make would depend on the denomination that had been pre-arranged by the players. Sgt. Lee also said that the chips were used to represent different denominations of bets but that the value would be dependant upon the arrangement amongst the gamblers.

iii. Inspector Patrick Khoo (PW6)

14. Inspector Patrick Khoo was called by the Prosecution as the recorder of the accuseds long statement. Both the section 122(6) and section 121 Criminal Procedure Code statements were admitted through this witness. The section 122(6) statement was admitted as P28 and the long statement as P29.

iv. Ms. Jean Wee Conceicao (PW3)

15. Ms. Jean Wee Conceicao was called to tender the Associations Annual Return for 1999 (P26) and a copy of its Rules and Bye-Laws (P27). From the Annual Return it can be seen that in 1999 there were a total of 54 members of the Association. The second edition of the Associations Rules and Bye-Laws dated from 1946 and the relevant article is as follows;

Article 27(c) The Association shall not be used for Opium-smoking, gambling and prostitution etc.

16. Ms. Conceicao agreed that there was no limitation in the Rules and Bye-Laws that restricted the membership to certain classes of the public.

B. The Gamblers.

17. From the arrest report, P19, it can be seen that there were eight players and five non-players arrested on the 3rd of December 1997. The prosecution choose to call three of the gamblers and offered the remaining witnesses to the defence.

i. Mdm. Bo Ah Nia (PW4)

18. Mdm. Bo Ah Nia (hereinafter "Mdm. Bo") admitted that she had been arrested on the 3rd of December 1997 at the Association premises for gambling. She stated that she was playing a game of mahjong and that the value of each chip she was gambling with was $2.00. She subsequently pleaded guilty to an offence of gaming and was fined.

19. Mdm. Bo stated that she was not a member of the Association. She says that she was in the premises on that day because she had met a friend who had asked her to go upstairs to the Association. She says that her friend was there on the day but that he did not gamble. She said that his name was a Mr. Kek. From the arrest report it can be seen that a Mr. Kek Yong Sa was arrested as one of the non-players. Mdm. Bo said that this was the first time she had come to the Association to gamble.

ii. Mr. Eng Sing Ki (PW5)

20. Mr. Eng Sing Ki (hereinafter "Mr. Eng") candidly admitted that he was at the Association in order to gamble. He said that on the day in question he was playing mahjong. He was arrested and he subsequently pleaded guilty and was fined $3,000. Mr. Eng said that at the end of each session each gambler would pay $8.00 to the Association. He could not recall whom he paid the money too. Mr. Eng said that on the 3rd of December 1997 someone had taken down his particulars in order to register him as a member but that he had not paid any registration fee as he was arrested on the same day.

21. In answers questions by the Court Mr. Eng said that he had not asked to become a member. Mr. Eng also said the following, (at page 51D of the Notes of Evidence);

Ct. You went into the Association and said I want to be a member?

A. No, I did not.

Ct. Did you go on and see someone and say you wanted to be a member of the Association?

A. No.

Q. Did you pay over the $8?

A. No, not yet.

Q. When were you supposed to pay the $8?

A. I was told to join as a member I had to pay a fee of $8.

Ct. That is not your earlier evidence is the $8 to join as a member or to meet the expenses which is it?

A. Actually the sum of $8 was paid after the game to meet the expenses of the Association.

Q. Did anyone tell you...

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