Ng Soon Kim v Public Prosecutor

JudgeSundaresh Menon CJ
Judgment Date17 October 2019
Neutral Citation[2019] SGHC 247
Citation[2019] SGHC 247
Defendant CounselHay Hung Chun and Li Yihong (Attorney-General's Chambers)
Published date19 October 2019
Hearing Date03 October 2019
Plaintiff CounselMervyn Tan and Evan Teo (Anthony Law Corporation)
Date17 October 2019
CourtHigh Court (Singapore)
Docket NumberMagistrate’s Appeal No 9022 of 2019
Subject MatterAppeals,Criminal Procedure and Sentencing,Sentencing
Sundaresh Menon CJ:

The appellant pleaded guilty to a charge of voluntarily causing hurt by means of fire under s 324 of the Penal Code (Cap 224, 2008 Rev Ed) (“Penal Code”). He was sentenced to 14 months’ imprisonment and disqualified from holding or obtaining all classes of driving licences for 18 months.

This was the appellant’s appeal against sentence. After hearing the parties and considering their submissions, I set aside the sentence of 14 months’ imprisonment and imposed a sentence of seven months’ imprisonment in its place. I also reduced the term of disqualification to a period of nine months. I gave brief grounds for my decision at the hearing. I now give fuller grounds.

Facts

The facts of this case are not in dispute, and are set out in full in the Statement of Facts that the appellant admitted to without qualification. Briefly, the appellant and the victim were both taxi drivers who did not know each other at the time. The appellant had abruptly cut into the victim’s lane at the Vivocity taxi stand while the victim was waiting in line in his taxi to pick up passengers. The victim did not confront the appellant at the time. Subsequently, the appellant’s taxi stopped beside the victim’s taxi at a traffic light junction. The victim wound down his front passenger window and started shouting at the appellant, berating him for the manner in which he had earlier driven. The victim used some Hokkien vulgarities in the course of this confrontation. The appellant alighted from his taxi, taking a can of insecticide with him. He stretched his hand into the victim’s taxi, pointed the can of insecticide at the victim and sprayed the victim with insecticide twice. On the second spray, some of the insecticide entered the victim’s eyes, causing him eye irritation and pain. The victim’s passenger shouted at the appellant.

After the second spray, the appellant returned to his taxi and retrieved a lighter. He then came back to the victim’s taxi and sprayed the can of insecticide at the victim a third time. This time, he held the lighter in front of the can, and in the process lit it, thus igniting the aerosol stream and creating a flash fire that lasted about three seconds. The flash fire caused the victim to suffer some superficial first degree burns and singeing of his hair. He was treated at Singapore General Hospital as an outpatient.

The decision below

Before the learned District Judge, the Prosecution submitted that the following sentencing matrix ought to apply in sentencing for offences under s 324 of the Penal Code:

Low Culpability Medium Culpability High Culpability
Low Harm Fine At least 1 year’s imprisonment At least 2 years’ imprisonment
Medium Harm At least 1 year’s imprisonment At least 2 years’ imprisonment At least 3 years’ imprisonment
Serious Harm At least 2 years’ imprisonment At least 3 years’ imprisonment At least 4.5 years’ imprisonment

The District Judge accepted and applied this sentencing matrix, which was not seriously contested before him by the appellant. The District Judge accepted, as was common ground, that the victim was only slightly injured and that the harm caused was, therefore, low. The District Judge also accepted the Prosecution’s submission that the appellant’s culpability should be considered at the medium level. Taking into consideration the fact that the assault was an act of road rage, and the deterrent stance courts have taken against such behaviour, the District Judge considered it appropriate to apply an uplift from the minimum starting point of one year’s imprisonment under the sentencing matrix to the middle part of the range of one to two years’ imprisonment. This, he thought, was further reinforced by the serious risk of conflagration in this case. Having reached that point, the District Judge examined the relevant offender-specific considerations and mitigating factors to arrive at the 14-month imprisonment term that he eventually imposed.

My decision The Prosecution’s proposed sentencing matrix

I begin by setting out ss 323 and 324 of the Penal Code. Section 323 is relevant because the offence prescribed by s 324 is an aggravated form of the offence prescribed under s 323.

Punishment for voluntarily causing hurt

Whoever, except in the case provided for by section 334, voluntarily causes hurt, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 2 years, or with fine which may extend to $5,000, or with both.

...

Voluntarily causing hurt by dangerous weapons or means

Whoever, except in the case provided for by section 334, voluntarily causes hurt by means of any instrument for shooting, stabbing or cutting, or any instrument which, used as a weapon of offence, is likely to cause death, or by means of fire or any heated substance, or by means of any poison or any corrosive substance, or by means of any explosive substance, or by means of any substance which it is deleterious to the human body to inhale, to swallow, or to receive into the blood, or by means of any animal, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 7 years, or with fine, or with caning, or with any combination of such punishments.

The Prosecution’s sentencing matrix rests on the uncontroversial premise that the sentence that is to be meted out is a function of two considerations: the type of harm and the level of culpability. What is controversial, however, is how the matrix assigns equal emphasis to these two considerations in calibrating the appropriate sentence. This is evident in how the proposed minimum sentence increases at the same rate along the culpability axis as it does along the harm axis.

In my judgment, the sentencing...

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25 cases
  • Public Prosecutor v Ibrahim bin Bajuri
    • Singapore
    • District Court (Singapore)
    • 13 April 2020
    ...Sim Swan Suzanna v Public Prosecutor [2020] SGHC 15 at [33] and [62]. For s 324 of the Penal Code, see Ng Soon Kim v Public Prosecutor [2019] SGHC 247. 40 See also Singapore Medical Council v Mohd Syamsul Alam bin Ismail [2019] SGHC 58 at [14]-[22], Singapore Medical Council v Dr Lim Lian A......
  • Public Prosecutor v Rozilawaty binte Eddy Rosmanah
    • Singapore
    • District Court (Singapore)
    • 3 April 2020
    ...Sim Swan Suzanna v Public Prosecutor [2020] SGHC 15 at [33] and [62]. For s 324 of the Penal Code, see Ng Soon Kim v Public Prosecutor [2019] SGHC 247. 49 See also Singapore Medical Council v Mohd Syamsul Alam bin Ismail [2019] SGHC 58 at [14]-[22], Singapore Medical Council v Dr Lim Lian A......
  • Public Prosecutor v Abdul Rahman Bin A Karim
    • Singapore
    • District Court (Singapore)
    • 21 April 2021
    ...and another appeal [2017] 5 SLR 820 at [58], Public Prosecutor v BPK [2018] 5 SLR 755 at [55(b)], and Ng Soon Kim v Public Prosecutor [2020] 3 SLR 1097 at [11]. I did not have the benefit of reasoned decisions that detail and elaborate on the various factual scenarios and relevant sentencin......
  • Public Prosecutor v Azlin bte Arujunah and another
    • Singapore
    • High Court (Singapore)
    • 13 August 2020
    ...Charges for ease of analysis. The Scalding Charges Section 326 of the Penal Code Menon CJ’s decision in Ng Soon Kim v Public Prosecutor [2019] SGHC 247 (“Ng Soon Kim”) provides a helpful guide to sentencing under s 326 of the Penal Code by way of analogy. In that case, Menon CJ considered h......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 books & journal articles
  • Criminal Procedure, Evidence and Sentencing
    • Singapore
    • Singapore Academy of Law Annual Review No. 2019, December 2019
    • 1 December 2019
    ...193 Low Song Chye v Public Prosecutor [2019] 5 SLR 526 at [98]. 194 Low Song Chye v Public Prosecutor [2019] 5 SLR 526 at [100]. 195 [2020] 3 SLR 1097. 196 Ng Soon Kim v Public Prosecutor [2020] 3 SLR 1097 at [8]–[9]. 197 Ng Soon Kim v Public Prosecutor [2020] 3 SLR 1097 at [11]. 198 Ng Soo......

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