Public Prosecutor v Chew Gee Tat

CourtDistrict Court (Singapore)
JudgeWong Keen Onn
Judgment Date13 February 2009
Neutral Citation[2009] SGDC 51
Citation[2009] SGDC 51
Published date17 March 2009
Plaintiff CounselDPP Dharshini, DPP David Khoo, APP Christine Liu, APP Eugene Kwang and DPP Lee Cheow Han
Defendant CounselLim Kia Tong (Hin Tat Augustine & Partners)

13 February 2008

District Judge Wong Keen Onn


The accused, Chew Gee Tat, male, 33 years old pleaded guilty and was convicted of two charges under s 8(a) p/u s 33 of the Misuse of Drugs Act, Chapter 185 (‘MDA’), The first charge was for unauthorised possession of one tablet which was analysed and found to contain Nimetazepam, a Class C controlled drug, sometime between 1st April 2007 to 22nd April 2007 at or about 10.00 p.m. (DAC 17650/2007). The second charge was for unauthorized possession of 90 tablets containing 10.51 grams of N-α-Dimethyl-3,4-(methylenedioxy)phenethylanime, a Class A controlled drug on 8 May 2007 at about 6.15 pm at his home at No 19 Soo Chow View (DAC 23303/2007).

2 Upon his conviction on the above two charges, he admitted and consented to another two charges under s 8(a) p/u s 33 of the Misuse of Drugs Act (“MDA”) to be taken into consideration for the purpose of sentencing. These comprise two counts of unauthorized possession of 5 tablets containing 0.58 grams of N-α-Dimethyl-3,4-(methylenedioxy)phenethylanime, a Class ‘A’ controlled drugs and 88 tablets of Nimetazepam, a Class ‘C’ controlled drug.

3 The accused was sentenced to one month imprisonment for DAC 17650/2007 and six months’ imprisonment for DAC 23303/2007. Both sentences were ordered to run concurrently, giving a total of six months’ imprisonment. The prosecution has appealed against this sentence. I now give the reasons for the sentences imposed.

The Facts

4 Briefly, between 1st April 2007 to 22nd April 2007, at about 10.00 p.m. at the vicinity of Soo Chow View Garden, the accused Chew Gee Tat had passed to one Chua Wei Hong, NRIC No. S8627156G (Chua), one tablet containing Nimetazapam, a Class C controlled drug listed in the First Schedule to The Misuse of Drugs Act (Cap 185) as well as a Specified Drug listed in The Fourth Schedule to The Misuse of Drugs Act (Cap 185) Much later, on 8th May 2007 at about 1 am, the CNB officers arrested the said Chua Wei Hong, at the ground lift lobby of Blk 256 Ang Mo Kio Avenue. Investigation revealed that Chua was found in possession of the same tablet of Nimetazapam that the accused had earlier handed over Chua. On the same day at about 6.15 p.m the CNB officers arrested the accused while he was inside the motor car bearing vehicle number SDL 8685K parked in front of No. 19 Soo Choo View. The accused admitted to the possession of the said drug that he had earlier handed over to Chua (Possession of a Class C controlled drug, DAC 017650/2007). Chua Wei Hong was sentenced earlier in Court 16 on 3 July 2007.

5 On the day of arrest, CNB officers searched the accused’s place of residence at No. 19 Soo Chow View Singapore. The CNB recovered 90 tablets inside a ‘Lock and Lock’ container from the third drawer of the accused writing table insider the accused bedroom. These 90 tablets were analysed by Health Science Authority and were found to contain a total weight of 10.51 gram of N-α-Dimethyl-3,4-(methylenedioxy)phenethylanime, a Class A controlled drug listed in The First Schedule to The Misuse of Drugs Act (Cap 185) as well as a Specified Drug listed in The Fourth Schedule to The Misuse of Drugs Act (Cap 185). The accused admitted to the possession of the said drug (Possession of a Class A controlled drug DAC23303/2007). The accused was not authorized to possess these Class C and Class A drugs under the Misuse of Drugs Act, Cap 185 or the regulations made thereunder.

Opinion Evidence on the accused’s psychiatric condition

6 After the accused had entered his plea of guilt, defence Counsel sought an adjournment of one month for two reasons; firstly, on compassionate grounds to attend to his dying father[note: 1]who was seriously ill after undergoing surgery for a tumor in his intestines and secondly, to prepare a written mitigation plea. This was granted as the prosecution had no objection to this[note: 2]. On the return date, defence counsel tendered in a psychiatric report on the accused. However, that psychiatric report initially did not say whether the accused was suffering from depression at the time of the offence. DPP also disputed that the accused was suffering from psychiatric illness at the time of the offence. Counsel sought an adjournment for further clarification and this application was not objected to by the DPP[note: 3]. The matter was again adjourned numerous times[note: 4]till October 2008 for each party to obtain a second opinion from an independent psychiatrist[note: 5], to seek further clarifications on the reports from both psychiatrists[note: 6], to accommodate the dairies of both psychiatrists to attend court to testify[note: 7], counsel’s overseas commitments and also the prosecutor APP Eugene Kwang’s unavailability (who was on specific instructions from by his superiors to follow the case through) due to his long leave and other trials[note: 8].

7 A post-conviction hearing or Newton hearing was conducted to hear the evidence of two psychiatrists regarding the difference in their expert opinions on the accused’s psychiatric condition at the time of commission of the offence, which would materially be relevant in sentencing. Dr Tan Chue Tin gave evidence on behalf of the defence while the prosecution called Dr Stephen Phang in rebuttal.

Evidence of Dr Tan Chue Tin

8 Dr Tan Chue Tin (“Dr Tan”), a Consultant Psychiatrist practising at Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre, testified that he first examined the accused on 15 June 2007, which was subsequent to accused’s arrest on 8 May 2007. Dr Tan had put up a total of 3 reports, a report dated 2 July 2007 (Tab 1 of Exhibit D1, Dr Tan Chue Tin “Reports, Letters & Literature”) and 2 further reports dated 27 December 2007 (Tab 3 of Exhibit D1) and 28 January 2008 (Tab 5 of Exhibit D1) for clarifications. Although Dr Tan testified that he saw Chew 12 times and had also spoken to the accused’s sister 2 times, the defence conceded that Dr Tan only saw the accused twice to prepare the psychiatric reports while the rest of the appointments were for the accused’s treatment[note: 9]. On top of that, he also read the Testimonial of Gopala Krishnan dated 16th January 2008, marked D3[note: 10].

9 In examination-in-chief, Dr Tan said he was of the opinion that the accused Chew Gee Tat (“accused” or “Chew”) was suffering from pathological grief reaction and severe depressive illness[note: 11]. He testified that he relied on the ICD-10 Classification of Mental and Behavioural Disorders (“ICD-10”) as issued by the World Health Organisation and the criteria are found in exhibit T9 of D1. He said that this is the official classification used by hospitals in Singapore. However, he also mentioned that psychiatrist do use the classification in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (“DSM-4”) although the ICD-10 Classification is the official document. For simplicity in his explanation, Dr Tan produced a Comparison Table, D2, reflecting the criteria in DSM-4 and ICD-10. Dr Tan said that if one looks at the individual criteria, both classifications matched[note: 12]. Under ICD 10, there are two types of listing of symptoms, the B listing and the C listing. For a diagnosis of depression as stated at Item 11 of the table, two sets of criteria should be attained. Firstly, there ought to be present 2 out of three symptoms, namely, B(1) depressive mood, B(2) loss of interest or pleasure or B(3) fatigue or loss of energy. The second criterion was that at least a total of four symptoms must be present out of the set of symptoms in B and C listing. In other words, if a patient had two symptoms out of B(1), B(2) or B(3) that were present, there ought to be present another two symptoms from the B and C listing before there could be a diagnosis of depressive illness for that patient.

10 Dr Tan said he had diagnosed the accused to have severe depression under ICD 10 classification as all the symptoms B1, B2 and B3 were present together with an additional 5 symptoms from the C listing to give a total of 8 or more symptoms[note: 13]. Dr Tan said that to diagnose severe depression using DSM-4, there must be in excess of 5 symptoms and the presence of the symptom ‘C’. Dr Tan testified that he had gone through Chew’s social works and the history of his grassroots involvement and said that there was a definite impairment in all these areas. Dr Tan said that the only difference between his opinion and that of Dr Stephen Phang on the extent of the accused’s depression was a fine shade of whether it was moderately severe or severely severe. Dr Tan opined that accused suffered from Major Depression of a ‘severe’ severity instead.

11 In cross-examination, Dr Tan agreed that the accused was able to work from 2005 to 2007 but his work efficiency decreased during this period few months before his arrest (on 8 May 2007). Dr Tan conceded that the accused did not have marked occupational impairment[note: 14]. Dr Tan also accepted as correct Dr Stephen Phang’s opinion in the latter’s report dated 25 March 2008 (Exh P3) that if the accused was prescribed steroids for 4 to 6 months in 2004 (as stated in Exh P3), the accused’s psychiatric condition was not solely caused by steroids[note: 15].

12 Dr Tan also said that he assessed the accused to be in F32-2 severe depressive episode without psychotic symptoms (pg 123 of T9 of Exh D1). But when asked why the accused was able to continue with work in contrast to the authoritative literature that clearly stated that “a patient with severe depressive episode would be very unlikely to be able continue with social, work, or domestic activities, except to a very limited extent”, Dr Tan initially replied that the accused was a persons who did not fit the guidelines but that consumption of Ecstasy gave the accused a euphoric effect and made the accused able to think. When asked about the basis of his opinion, Dr Tan conceded that he did not have any objective evidence about the accused’s performance at...

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