Public Prosecutor v Boon Yu Kai John

CourtHigh Court (Singapore)
JudgeYong Pung How CJ
Judgment Date23 June 2004
Neutral Citation[2004] SGHC 136
Citation[2004] SGHC 136
Published date28 June 2004
Plaintiff CounselEddy Tham (Deputy Public Prosecutor)
Defendant CounselOng Ying Ping and Lim Seng Siew (Ong Tay and Partners)
Date23 June 2004
Docket NumberMagistrate's Appeal No 234 of 2003
Subject MatterWhether trial judge entitled to reject reasoning of expert witness on issue of mens rea,Procedure to be followed,Statutory offences,Accused of unsound mind,Principles,Actus reus,Whether respondent incapable of knowing that message transmitted false due to unsoundness of mind,Acquittal by reason of unsoundness of mind,Sections 314, 315 Criminal Procedure Code (Cap 68, 1985 Rev Ed),Criminal Procedure and Sentencing,Section 45(b) Telecommunications Act (Cap 323, 2000 Rev Ed),Whether falsity of message established,Evidence,Elements of crime,Mens rea,Expert evidence,Whether respondent transmitted false message,Knowingly transmitting false message,Criminal Law

23 June 2004

Yong Pung How CJ:

1 This was an appeal from an order by Magistrate Wong Li Tein acquitting and discharging the respondent of an offence under s 45(b) of the Telecommunications Act (Cap 323, 2000 Rev Ed) (“the Act”) for transmitting a message that he knew to be false. The Prosecution appealed against the grounds upon which the court below based the acquittal. I allowed the appeal and now set out my reasons.

The facts

The charge

2 The respondent claimed trial to the following charge in the court below:

MAC 2323/2003

You, JOHN BOON YU KAI, M/40 yrs, NRIC: S1534441E, are charged that you on the 25th day of March 2003, at or about 9.23 am, at Block 117 Commonwealth Drive #01-717, Singapore, did transmit to one, Sergeant Shew Syn Hui of Combined Operations Room, Police Headquarters, Singapore, by means of telephone message to the effect that “Can you send your man to arrest the suspects driving dark green Corolla SCE 9345? He want to murder this Mdm Tan think Blk 108 07-252 Commonwealth Crescent. Mdm Tan is wearing a yellow dress now. The suspect is in the market now” which you know to be false, and you have thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 45(b) of the Telecommunication Act, Chapter 323.

The Prosecution’s case

3 It was the Prosecution’s case that the respondent had called the police and given them the aforesaid message at about 9.23am on the day in question. In response to his message, police officers were despatched to the vicinity of the market at Block 117 Commonwealth Drive where they conducted a foot patrol of the area from 9.40am to 9.50am. However, there was no sign of either the respondent or the suspect complained of.

4 On the same morning, the respondent made three more calls to the police to check if they had reached the market:

(a) At 9.38am, he telephoned the police and asked, “Earlier I called, is the police coming?”

(b) At 9.58am, he called again and said, “Has your Police reached the market? Catch the young chap. He wants to kill Mdm Tan.”

(c) At 10.30am, the respondent called the police one last time, stating that “Mdm Tan wearing yellow dress. The man in a dark car SCE 9555 wants to kill her. Why your men haven’t arrived yet? Just now I got call.”

The alleged murder target, Mdm Tan, was one Mdm Tan Sun Nio, the respondent’s mother.

5 Dr Sim Kang, psychiatrist and Registrar of Woodbridge Hospital, was the expert witness for the Prosecution who had examined the respondent after his arrest. Dr Sim stated, in his report, the circumstances surrounding the respondent’s telephone calls to the police as narrated by the respondent to him. Apparently, one Mdm Wong, an ex-neighbour of the respondent and his family, had been causing them various problems for more than ten years. Mdm Wong and her gang had come to their residence on many occasions to scratch their door and open the windows of their unit. Mdm Wong had also told him on several occasions about her intention to kill his mother.

6 The respondent told Dr Sim that on the morning in question, he had gone to the market with his mother when someone took her photograph. On his mother’s instructions, he telephoned the police. He feared for her safety.

7 Dr Sim also interviewed the respondent’s parents and elder sister, and set out the information obtained from them in his report. The respondent’s parents claimed that Mdm Wong had put threatening letters and knives under their door, that she had asked gangsters to burn their home and cut the electrical wiring outside their flat, and that she had wanted to kill the respondent as well. However, the respondent’s sister had never witnessed these events and she had doubts about their veracity. In fact, she had brought the respondent to see a private psychiatrist on her own accord in September 2002, much against the wishes of their mother.

8 Taking into consideration his examination of the respondent on various occasions, his interviews with the respondent’s family members, reviews of the respondent’s old notes and the nurses’ report about the respondent’s behaviour during remand, Dr Sim concluded that the respondent suffered from:

… mild mental retardation (IQ 58) and delusional disorder characterised by firm, fixed delusions about being persecuted and harmed. He was of unsound mind at the time of the alleged offence. Although he knew the nature of his act, he did not believe that it was wrong or against the law to notify the police as he firmly believe[d] that serious harm may befall his mother.

In Dr Sim’s opinion, the respondent’s parents, especially his mother, also shared his delusions of persecution and harm by Mdm Wong and her gang. The Defence did not dispute Dr Sim’s evidence.

9 The respondent also furnished to the police three threatening notes that were allegedly left at his residence by unknown persons. In addition, the police received two complaint letters against the Investigating Officer, one signed by the respondent and the other by his mother. The notes and letters were sent to the Health Sciences Authority (“HSA”) for handwriting analysis, whereby the HSA analyst opined that the evidence was consistent with the finding that the same person authored the notes and letters.

10 Though the Prosecution conceded that Mdm Wong did exist and that there had been bad blood between the two families, it maintained that these incidents had happened some 20 years ago. The Prosecution contended that it had proved its case beyond a reasonable doubt. Alternatively, it argued that if the trial judge should be minded to acquit the respondent due to his unsoundness of mind, she should report the case for the order of the Minister and have the respondent kept in safe custody pending the Minister’s order, pursuant to s 315 of the Criminal Procedure Code (Cap 68, 1985 Rev Ed) (“the CPC”).

Close of the Prosecution’s case

11 At the end of the Prosecution’s case, the trial judge was mindful that the evidence would only have to be approached with minimal evaluation at this stage of the trial. She noted that the respondent had admitted that he made the telephone calls to the police and called upon the respondent for his defence. However, the respondent elected to remain silent. There were no other witnesses for the Defence.

The defence

12 Counsel for the respondent rightly submitted that three elements had to be proved in order to convict the respondent on the charge, namely that:

(a) the respondent did transmit or cause the message to be transmitted;

(b) the message was false; and

(c) the respondent knew that the message was false.

13 It was not disputed that the respondent made the telephone calls to the police. However, counsel contended that the second and third elements of the charge had not been proved beyond a reasonable doubt. First, he claimed that the evidence before the court was insufficient to warrant the conclusion that the message was false. Second, based on the evidence of Dr Sim, counsel contended that the respondent genuinely believed in the truth of his message.

The decision below

14 The trial...

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1 cases
  • Public Prosecutor v Sim Gim Tiong
    • Singapore
    • District Court (Singapore)
    • 4 November 2004
    ...proceeded with and the four taken into consideration, must attract a significant sentence. 52. Counsel cited PP v Boon Yu Kai John [2004] SGHC 136 in support of the argument that there was in reality only one transaction here. I understood Counsel’s argument to be essentially that because t......

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