MC Strata Title No 641 v Public Prosecutor

JurisdictionSingapore
JudgeYong Pung How CJ
Judgment Date05 April 1993
Neutral Citation[1993] SGHC 76
Docket NumberMagistrate's Appeal No 342/91/01
Date05 April 1993
Published date19 September 2003
Year1993
Plaintiff CounselRonald Lee (Palakrishnan & Partners)
Citation[1993] SGHC 76
Defendant CounselOng Hian Sun (Deputy Public Prosecutor)
CourtHigh Court (Singapore)
Subject MatterStandard of cleanliness and hygiene to be observed,Criminal Law,'Maintenance',Words and Phrases,Public health,Offences,s 58(2) Environmental Public Health Act (Cap 95, 1988 Ed),Whether duty satisfied by employing cleaners to clean regularly,Nature of duty,Duty to maintain public conveniences in a clean and hygienic manner without causing nuisance to sight or smell,Whether fine imposed manifestly excessive,Maintenance of public conveniences,Whether a continuous duty,Whether offence a strict liability offence

The appellants, through their general manager and representative Ho Kam Cheong, claimed trial in the subordinate courts to the following amended charge:

Environment Summons No 1331/91

You, the Management Corporation Strata Title No 641 of 315 Outram Road #15-05 Singapore, are charged that you on 19 April 1991 at about 12.20pm being the person in charge of the premises at 315 Outram Road Tan Boon Liat Building, did fail to maintain the sanitary convenience used in common by members of the public, to wit, the male toilets on the ground floor of the said building, in a clean and hygienic manner without causing any nuisance to sight and you have thereby contravened s 58(2) of the Environmental Public Health Act (Cap 95) and committed an offence punishable under s 108 of the said Act.



The facts of the case as before the magistrate were as follows: Lee Keng Chuen, a Ministry of Environment health inspector, was called on to inspect the lavatories in Tan Boon Liat Building, of which the appellants were the management corporation, owing to a complaint made on 18 April 1991 about a men`s lavatory on the ground floor.
He arrived in uniform at 12.05pm the next day, and, after enlisting the assistance of Aloysius Anthony, the appellants` administration and security manager, inspected the lavatory on the ground floor. He testified at the trial that he had found the floor of the lavatory to be damp, with cigarette butts and waste paper on the floor, that the sinks and urinals were dirty and that the urinal walls were stained, and that there were no dustbins in the lavatory. Accordingly, he put up a complaint for a summons to be issued against the appellants for breach of their duty to maintain their public conveniences in a manner required by s 58(2) of the Environmental Public Health Act (Cap 95, 1988 Ed)(`the Act`).

The appellants gave evidence that they employed some 11-13 cleaners to clean the 60 lavatories in the building.
The ground floor lavatories in particular would be cleaned with chemicals and soap three times a day on weekdays, at 7am, 11am and 2pm, and twice on Saturdays but not on Sundays. They claimed that the condition of the men`s lavatories on the ground floor as observed by Lee had been caused by the lunchtime crowd and that this was merely transient as the lavatories would have been cleaned up at 2pm.

It transpired that the appellants had previously received a warning letter from the assistant commissioner of public health dated 21 June 1989, ordering them under s 45(1) of the Act to keep their public conveniences clean and dry and their facilities in good working order.
In addition, Lee testified that he had previously inspected the public lavatories in the building on six occasions and found their general cleanliness to be unsatisfactory.

At the conclusion of the trial on 21 September 1991, the appellants were found guilty and were fined $1,500.
Their appeal before me was against both conviction and sentence. Having considered the arguments advanced on their behalf, I dismissed their appeal.

The appellants` grounds of appeal against conviction were based on errors of both fact and law made by the court below.
They contended that the learned magistrate had erred in fact in finding that the conveniences in question had not been maintained in accordance with s 58(2) of the Act. Section 58(2) provides:

Where sanitary conveniences are used in common by the members of two or more families or by members of the public or by employees, the owner, occupier, chief or principal tenant or the person in charge of the building concerned, as the case may be, shall maintain such sanitary conveniences in a clean and hygienic manner without causing any nuisance to sight or smell.



The appellants submitted that the evidence of Lee, the prosecution`s only witness, upon which the magistrate`s finding of fact had been based, that the floor of the lavatories had been damp, with cigarette butts and waste paper on the floor, and stains on the wash basins and urinals, had merely showed that the lavatories had been untidy and not that they had been unclean or unhygienic or causing a nuisance to sight or smell.


They further contended that the learned magistrate had erred in law in holding that the duty to maintain the cleanliness of their public conveniences as imposed by s 58(2) of the Act was a `continuous duty`, and one which had not been discharged in the instant case by the appellants` adopting of standard procedures to clean the toilets, here, by employing cleaners and deploying them three times a day.
They argued that a temporary and isolated interruption in the state of cleanliness of the toilets, such as the inspection by Lee in this case on 19 April 1991 at 12.20pm, could not constitute the actus reus of the offence under s 58(2). Finally, they argued that in order to prove a breach of the duty under s 58(2) it was necessary to prove that the toilets were both unclean and unhygienic.

I was of the view that, on the particular facts of the case before me, the appellants` contentions could all be set aside.
In particular, the order made by the assistant commissioner for public health pursuant to s 45(1) of the Act, and the evidence of previous inspections and complaints, as well as the existence of the stains on the urinal walls which generally do not come about except from continuous non-maintenance, all pointed to a failure to keep the toilets clean on a regular basis and not to a merely isolated incident of soiling on the day of inspection.

In addition, a photograph of the toilet in question
...

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    ...Borough of Merton v Lowe (1981) 18 BLR 130 (refd) Lotus M, The [1998] 1 SLR(R) 409; [1998] 2 SLR 145 (refd) MCST Plan No 641 v PP [1993] 1 SLR(R) 568; [1993] 2 SLR 65 (refd) MCST Plan No 2297 v Seasons Park Ltd [2005] 2 SLR(R) 613; [2005] 2 SLR 613 (folld) Market Investigations Ltd v Minist......
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    • Singapore
    • Singapore Academy of Law Journal No. 1999, December 1999
    • 1 Diciembre 1999
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    ...economic activitiesaffecting public health, safety or welfare. Yong Pung How J. in the case MC Strata Title No641 v Public Prosecutor [1993] 2 SLR 650noted that, “The creation of strict criminal liabilityoffenses would be vital in promoting the objects of the statute and encouraging greater......

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