PP v Wang Wenfeng

Judgment Date07 February 2014
Date07 February 2014
Docket NumberCriminal Case No 4 of 2011
CourtHigh Court (Singapore)
Public Prosecutor
Wang Wenfeng

Lee Seiu Kin J

Criminal Case No 4 of 2011

High Court

Criminal Law—Offences—Murder—Re-sentencing—Victim a taxi driver—Accused attempting to extort money from victim's wife—Section 4 (5) (g) Penal Code (Amendment) Act 2012 (Act 32 of 2012)

The accused, Wang Wenfeng (‘Wang’), was convicted of murder under s 300 (c) of the Penal Code (Cap 224, 2008 Rev Ed) on 20 September 2011 and sentenced to the mandatory death penalty. On 1 January 2013, the amendment to s 302 of the Penal Code, which was the provision prescribing the punishment for offences under s 300, took effect. Consequent upon the amendment, the Court of Appeal remitted the case to the High Court for re-sentencing.

The deceased (‘the Victim’) was a taxi driver whose taxi Wang had boarded with the intention of committing robbery. In the course of a struggle between Wang and the Victim, Wang stabbed Victim on the chest and thereby caused his death. Wang hid the Victim's body in a nearby jungle and drove the taxi to a remote part of a multi-storey carpark where he cleaned the taxi and removed the Victim's money and mobile phone. The Victim's wife tried to call him on the mobile phone and Wang took the opportunity to attempt to extort money from her by leading her to think her husband was still alive. After several unsuccessful attempts to obtain a transfer of money from the Victim's wife, Wang decided to leave Singapore by air but was arrested before he could do so.

The Prosecution submitted, among other things, that (a) Wang had displayed a high degree of premeditation and planning; and (b) his lack of remorse was evident from his post-murder actions. In calling for a deterrent sentence, the Prosecution emphasised that the Victim was a public transport worker and that public transport workers, especially taxi drivers, had been viewed by the courts as vulnerable victims.

Held, re-sentencing accused to life imprisonment and 24 strokes of cane:

(1) The sentence had to be determined in the context of the facts leading to the killing, and to a lesser extent, the facts post-killing, along with other factors of the case, namely the fact that the Victim was a taxi driver, and part of a vulnerable group: at [30] .

(2) Wang had not set out with the intention to kill, but with the intention to commit robbery. He had targeted taxi drivers, presumably for their unique vulnerability. As for the acts post-killing, Wang was entitled to the benefit of doubt that this was motivated by self-preservation after the fact and not cold-blooded intent. The aggravating factor in this case was the fact that he took cruel advantage of the desperation of the Victim's widow and tried to extort money from her while keeping up her hopes that the Victim was still alive: at [29] and [32] .

(3) The Prosecution had not adduced sufficient evidence to justify imposition of capital punishment on the ground of deterrence. The only evidence produced by the Prosecution was a single incident of murder of a taxi driver in the past five years, which was the present case, and a number of cases of serious hurt against taxi drivers, which neither showed an upward trend nor were high. It was necessary for the Prosecution to produce much more evidence to show the inadequacy of life imprisonment plus caning as a deterrence as against the death sentence. Deterrence was therefore not considered to be a major factor in determining the sentence for the present case: at [31] and [32] .

Bachan Singh v State of Punjab (1980) 2 SCC 684; 1980 SCC (Cri) 580; AIR 1980 SC 898 (refd)

Balbir Singh s/o Amar Singh v PP [2010] 3 SLR 784 (refd)

Dinesh Singh Bhatia s/o Amarjeet Singh v PP [2005] 3 SLR (R) 1; [2005] 3 SLR 1 (refd)

Lai Oei Mui Jenny v PP [1993] 2 SLR (R) 406; [1993] 3 SLR 305 (refd)

PP v Fabian Adiu Edwin Criminal Case No 40 of 2009 (16 July 2013) (refd)

PP v Gopinathan Nair Remadevi Bijukumar Criminal Case No 40 of 2011 (28 August 2013) (refd)

PP v Kho Jabing [2014] 1 SLR 973 (refd)

PP v Kwong Kok Hing [2008] 2 SLR (R) 684; [2008] 2 SLR 684 (refd)

PP v Law Aik Meng [2007] 2 SLR (R) 814; [2007] 2 SLR 814 (refd)

PP v Wang Wenfeng [2011] SGHC 208 (refd)

Sangeet v State of Haryana (2013) 2 SCC 452; AIR 2013 SC 447 (refd)

Sia Ah Kew v PP [1974-1976] SLR (R) 54; [1972-1974] SLR 208 (refd)

Wang Wenfeng v PP [2012] 4 SLR 590 (refd)

Wong Hoi Len v PP [2009] 1 SLR (R) 115; [2009] 1 SLR 115 (refd)

Penal Code (Cap 224, 2008 Rev Ed) ss 300, 300 (a) , 300 (b) , 300 (c) , 300 (d) , 302

Penal Code (Amendment) Act 2012 (Act 32 of 2012) s 4 (5) (g) (consd)

Bala Reddy, Ilona Tan and Kelly Ho (Attorney-General's Chambers) for the Prosecution

Wendell Wong and Alfian Adam Teo (Drew & Napier LLC) for the accused.

Lee Seiu Kin J

1 On 20 September 2011, Wang Wenfeng (‘Wang’) was convicted of murder under s 300 (c) of the Penal Code (Cap 224, 2008 Rev Ed). At the time of the conviction, the offence was punishable with a mandatory death penalty under s 302 of the Penal Code. Wang appealed, but the Court of Appeal (‘CA’) upheld the conviction and sentence. On 1 January 2013, the Penal Code (Amendment) Act 2012 (Act 32 of 2012) came into operation,with the effect that the death sentence is no longer mandatory under ss 300 (b), 300 (c) and 300 (d) of the Penal Code. Consequently, on 16 August 2013, the CA remitted the case back to the High Court for re-sentencing and, on 13 November 2013, I exercised my power under s 4 (5) (g) of the Penal Code (Amendment) Act 2012 to re-sentence Wang to imprisonment for life and to 24 strokes of the cane. The Prosecution has filed an appeal against the sentence and I now give the grounds for my decision.

The background

2 The full facts of this case are set out in my judgment delivered at the end of the trial in PP v Wang Wenfeng[2011] SGHC 208 (‘HCJudgment’), as well as in the grounds of decision of the appeal in Wang Wenfeng v PP[2012] 4 SLR 590; [2012] SGCA 47 (‘CAJudgment’). I shall therefore set out only the salient facts below.

3 Wang is from Fujian Province in the People's Republic of China. He came to Singapore to work, but at the time of the offence in April 2009, he was out of work and was required to leave Singapore by 15 April 2009. At that time, he could not afford a plane ticket home. He tried to borrow money from his younger sister and his wife but they did not lend him any. On Friday 10 April 2009, Wang decided to resort to robbery to get the money for his airfare.

4 In the early morning of 11 April 2009, Wang set off to Sun Plaza at Sembawang Drive, carrying with him a haversack containing...

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