Md Rafiqul Islam Abdul Aziz v Public Prosecutor

JurisdictionSingapore
JudgeChao Hick Tin JA
Judgment Date09 December 2016
Neutral Citation[2016] SGHC 273
Plaintiff CounselTang Jin Sheng (Dentons Rodyk & Davidson LLP)
Docket NumberCriminal Revision No 8 of 2016
Date09 December 2016
Hearing Date26 August 2016
Subject MatterCriminal Procedure and Sentencing,Revision of Proceedings
Published date13 December 2016
Defendant CounselAng Feng Qian (Attorney-General's Chambers)
CourtHigh Court (Singapore)
Citation[2016] SGHC 273
Year2016
Chao Hick Tin JA: Introduction

On 30 June 2016, the applicant, Md Rafiqul Islam Abdul Aziz (“the Applicant”), pleaded guilty to a charge of making a fraudulent claim for compensation under the Work Injury Compensation Act (Cap 354, 2009 Rev Ed) (“WICA”). The Applicant was convicted on the same day with sentencing adjourned to the next day. However, on 1 July 2016, the Applicant, through his then-counsel Ms Priscylia Wu (“Ms Wu”) of Drew & Naiper LLC, informed the court that he wished to retract his guilty plea as matters which would be highlighted in mitigation would materially affect the legal conditions required to constitute the charge. The district judge (“the DJ”) did not allow the Applicant to qualify or retract his plea and sentenced the Applicant to four weeks’ imprisonment which was ordered to commence immediately as the Applicant was unable to post bail. The Applicant served the sentence and was repatriated from Singapore on 22 July 2016.

On 25 July 2016, the Applicant filed Criminal Revision No 8 of 2016 (“the Application”). By the Application, the Applicant seeks to have his conviction set aside. The Applicant is assisted by the Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (“HOME”) and is now represented by Mr Tang Jin Sheng of Dentons Rodyk & Davidson LLP (“Mr Tang”).

Background to the Application

The Applicant is a 29-year-old male Bangladeshi foreign construction worker. He claims that in or around May 2013, while he was working beside Segar LRT station, he climbed a ladder to tie rebar on the metal plates to the formwork but unfortunately slipped off the ladder and sustained an injury to his left knee as a result. Some eight months later, on 27 January 2014, he made a claim under the WICA. The Ministry of Manpower (“MOM”) recorded the accident as having occurred on 30 May 2013.

The MOM took the view that the Applicant’s claim was fraudulent. This was because on 30 May 2013 he had, allegedly, not been instructed to climb a ladder to carry out the said construction work. Instead, on that day, he was only doing light sweeping work which could not have led to the accident and the knee injury. Whilst the Applicant concedes that the incident might not have occurred on 30 May 2013, his position is that a work accident did in fact occur. In this regard, he relies on a letter by Dr Thomas Catabas (“Dr Catabas”) from the Emergency Department of Tan Tock Seng Hospital addressed to Drew & Napier LLC. The Applicant saw Dr Catabas on 31 May 2013, and it was recorded by Dr Catabas that the Applicant had accidentally sprained his left knee four days prior to the medical examination. This recording would undoubtedly have been based on information furnished by the Applicant at the consultation. Indeed, in the letter from Dr Catabas to Drew & Napier LLC, he stated that “[t]he patient did mention that he accidentally sprained his left knee, 4 days prior to exam” although he also stated that the Applicant “did not mention that the accident occurred at the workplace”.

In the light of the view taken by the MOM, the Prosecution preferred three charges against the Applicant. The original charges read as follows:

1st CHARGE

You … are charged that you, on 14 February 2014, did fraudulently make a claim for compensation under the [WICA] in an “Application Form for Work Injury Compensation Claim under the Work Injury Compensation Act” form made to the [MOM], which you knew to be false in order to induce your employer … in making payment of such compensation to you; to wit, you filed a claim for compensation for injuries sustained on 30 May 2013 during the course of work under the employment of the said company, which you knew was false, when you had, in fact, been doing light sweeping work which could not have resulted in the sustained injuries, and your injury was in fact due to a pre-existing condition, and you have thereby committed an offence ….

2nd CHARGE

You … are charged that you, on 14 February 2014, did make a false statement to an investigating officer … which you knew was false in a material particular; to wit you stated in your statement that you had, on 30 May 2013 at about 4pm … during the course of work at a condominium site beside Segar LRT, climbed a ladder to tie rebar on the metal plates to the formwork and slipped off a ladder from a height of 1 metre and as a result suffered injury to you knee and that your colleagues had come to your assistance and you had conveyed details of the accident to them, when you knew this to be false, and you have thereby committed an offence ...

3rd CHARGE

You … are charged that you on 3 October 2014 did make a false statement to an investigating officer … which you knew was false in a material particular; to wit, you stated that you had fallen off a ladder while tying a rebar on a metal plate to formwork on 30 May 2013 under the instructions of your foreman, and had fallen from the ladder and informed your colleagues of the accident sustained in the course of work … when you knew these to be false, and you have thereby committed an offence …

[emphasis added in italics]

The trial of the charges was scheduled to begin on 30 June 2016. That morning, the MOM prosecutors (ie, Prosecuting Officer Pegan Chong (“PO Chong”) and Prosecuting Officer Lee Kui Bao) handed over three amended charges to Ms Wu, the Applicant’s counsel (“the Amended Charges”). The Amended Charges read as follows (referred to hereinafter as “the Amended First Charge”, “the Amended Second Charge” and “the Amended Third Charge” respectively):

AMENDED 1st CHARGE

You … are charged that you, on 14 February 2014, did fraudulent make a claim for compensation under the [WICA] in an “Application Form for Work Injury Compensation Claim Under the Work Injury Compensation Act” form made to the [MOM], which you knew to be false in order to induce your employer … in making payment of such compensation to you; to wit, you filed a claim for compensation for injuries sustained on 30 May 2013 during the course of work under the employment of the said company, which you knew was false, when you had, in fact, been doing light work, and your injury was not caused by an accident at work on 30 May 2013, and you have thereby committed an offence …

AMENDED 2nd CHARGE

You … are charged that you, on 14 February 2014, did make a false statement to an investigating officer … which you knew was false in a material particular; to wit, you stated in your statement that you had, on 30 May 2013 … during the course of work at a condominium site beside Segar LRT, suffered an accident at work on 30 May 2013 and had conveyed information of the said accident to your colleagues, when you knew this to be false, and you have thereby committed an offence …

AMENDED 3rd CHARGE

You … are charged that you, on 3 October 2014, did make a false statement to an investigating officer … which you knew was false in a material particular; to wit, you had informed Kanyarat Khemporm …, Perumal Manivel … and Mohammed Nur Alam Mohammed Idris Ali … of your accident that occurred on 30 May 2013, when you knew this to be false, and you have thereby committed an offence …

Although Ms Wu had earlier been informed by the MOM prosecutors that amendments would be made to the original charges, it appeared that the actual amendments made were quite different from the amendments which the MOM prosecutors had earlier informed Ms Wu of.

Ms Wu then informed the Applicant that the MOM was accusing him of attempting to cheat his employer because he did not have an accident on 30 May 2013 and he did not suffer a work injury. She informed the Applicant that, amongst other reasons, if the Applicant had given the wrong date of the incident, it might be difficult to contest the Amended Charges. She also asked the Applicant to consider pleading guilty. As a result of the Amended Charges and Ms Wu’s need to discuss with the Applicant as to how he was to respond to the Amended Charges, the trial was stood down several times.

According to the Applicant, after hearing what Ms Wu had told him, he had the impression that the MOM was accusing him of giving the wrong date for the accident. This was an accusation that he could consider accepting. It was apparently on this understanding that the Applicant then agreed to plead guilty to the Amended Second Charge.

After some further discussion, the MOM prosecutors informed Ms Wu that their position was to proceed against the Applicant on the Amended First Charge, and if the Applicant would plead guilty to that charge, the Amended Second and Third Charges would only be taken into consideration for the purposes of sentencing. The Applicant eventually chose to plead guilty to the Amended First Charge.

At about 11.15 am on that day, the parties went back before the DJ who was informed that the Applicant would plead guilty to the Amended First Charge. The Statement of Facts was read out. It is a matter of some dispute as to whether the Applicant informed the court interpreter that he disagreed with portions of the Statement of Facts. What is undisputed is that the court interpreter informed the DJ that the Applicant accepted the Statement of Facts without qualification. The Applicant was then convicted on the Amended First Charge.

After the Applicant was convicted, Ms Wu applied to adjourn the hearing on mitigation to the next day. This was granted. It appears that after the hearing on 30 June 2016, the Applicant told Ms Wu that the Statement of Facts did not state that he had a work accident and suffered a serious knee injury. According to Ms Wu, she responded by informing the Applicant that if he wished to maintain that he had suffered a work injury, she could include his version of events in the mitigation plea. However, she stated that the Prosecution might object to this version of events, and the DJ might reject his plea of guilty to the Amended First...

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5 cases
  • Dinesh s/o Rajantheran v Public Prosecutor
    • Singapore
    • High Court (Singapore)
    • 23 November 2018
    ...of guilty where the mitigation plea qualified the plea of guilty. This seems to have been recognised in Md Rafiqul Islam Abdul Aziz v PP [2017] 3 SLR 619 (“Rafiqul”) (at [35]) although there, the Court put it in more general terms. In the circumstances, there is no reason why s 228(4) shoul......
  • Public Prosecutor v Dinesh s/o Rajantheran
    • Singapore
    • Court of Appeal (Singapore)
    • 23 April 2019
    ...does not always qualify a plea of guilt.” Likewise, Chao Hick Tin JA (as he then was) in Md Rafiqul Islam Abdul Aziz v Public Prosecutor [2017] 3 SLR 619 (“Md Rafiqul”) at [34] suggested that the court might examine whether the point raised has any substance: …the requirement in s 228(4) of......
  • Public Prosecutor v Mangalagiri Dhruva Kumar
    • Singapore
    • High Court (Singapore)
    • 21 March 2018
    ...was manifestly labouring under a mistake or misunderstanding (see Ganesun at [13], Md Rafiqul Islam Abdul Aziz v Public Prosecutor [2017] 3 SLR 619 at [32], [33]). Indeed, s 228(4) of the CPC was generally invoked in situations where despite an accused’s insistence on pleading guilty, the c......
  • Public Prosecutor v Ong Say Kiat
    • Singapore
    • High Court (Singapore)
    • 12 September 2017
    ...are to be exercised sparingly and would only be invoked to remedy a serious injustice (Md Rafiqul Islam Abdul Aziz v Public Prosecutor [2017] 3 SLR 619 at [23]). In Ang Poh Chuan v Public Prosecutor [1995] 3 SLR(R) 929 (“Ang Poh Chuan”), the High Court held (at [17]) that: Thus various phra......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 books & journal articles
  • Case Note - THE LAW ON THE RETRACTION AND QUALIFICATION OF PLEAS
    • Singapore
    • Singapore Academy of Law Journal No. 2020, December 2020
    • 1 December 2020
    ...125 at [13]; Yunani bin Abdul Hamid v Public Prosecutor [2008] 3 SLR(R) 383 at [53]; and Md Rafiqul Islam Abdul Aziz v Public Prosecutor [2017] 3 SLR 619 at [26]. 17 See ss 227(2)(a)(ii) and 227(2)(b)(ii) of the Criminal Procedure Code (Cap 68, 2012 Rev Ed). 18 [2002] 1 SLR(R) 138. 19 Balas......

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