Public Prosecutor v Gue Jeffery

JudgeSalina Bte Ishak
Judgment Date10 December 2020
Neutral Citation[2020] SGDC 285
CourtDistrict Court (Singapore)
Docket NumberDistrict Arrest Case No 928704 of 2019 and others, Magistrate’s Appeal No 9888 of 2020
Published date17 December 2020
Hearing Date18 November 2020
Plaintiff CounselGregory Gan (Attorney-General's Chambers)
Defendant CounselPeter Ong Lip Cheng (Peter Ong Law Corporation).
Subject MatterCriminal Procedure and Sentencing,Charge,Withdrawal,Discharge Not Amounting To An Acquittal
Citation[2020] SGDC 285
District Judge Salina Bte Ishak: Background

The accused, Mr Gue Jeffery, a 54 year-old Singapore citizen was first charged in Court 26 on 11 October 2019 for two counts of aggravated cheating under s 420 of the Penal Code (Cap 224, 2008 Rev Ed) in DAC-928704-2019 and DAC-928705-2019. He was alleged to have dishonestly induced one Hiroko Kobayashi to deliver the sums of $13,000 and $15,000 respectively for currencies exchange trading, a fact which he knew to be false. After several rounds of mentions and pre-trial conferences, his case was fixed for a three-day trial from 18 November 2020 to 20 November 2020.

Two days before the trial on 16 November 2020, in a letter that was copied to the Defence, the Prosecution informed the court that it would be applying for a discharge not amounting to an acquittal in respect of the two charges as further evidence had surfaced in respect of the case and that time was required to verify the evidence.

The Application

On 18 November 2020, the Prosecution applied for a discharge not amounting to an acquittal against the accused pursuant to s 232(1) of the Criminal Procedure Code (Cap 68, 2012 Rev Ed). It was submitted that the Public Prosecutor may decline to prosecute at any stage of the trial and that s 232(2) states that a discharge shall not amount to an acquittal unless court so directs. In support of its application, the Prosecution had referred to the High Court decision in PP v Ng Guan Hup [2009] 4 SLR(R) 314 that had dealt with the application of the predecessor to this statutory provision namely, s 184 of the Criminal Procedure Code (Cap 68, 1985 Rev Ed). It was further submitted based on this case, it is established law that the discretion on whether a discharge amounting to an acquittal or a discharge not amounting to an acquittal be ordered depends on balancing the public interest in ensuring criminal acts are punished as well as fairness to the accused.

The court was informed that the victim in the present case was contactable in this jurisdiction but certain information had come to light that would have an impact on the current charges. The police would need some time to look into this before the Prosecution could finalise its position. It was submitted that the balance favoured the granting of a discharge not amounting to an acquittal as the charges that accused has been charged with carries imprisonment of up to ten years. In addition, it was further submitted that this was not a case where the material witnesses have gone missing unlike that in PP v Ng Guan Hup.

In response to the application, the Defence had highlighted that the accused was first charged on 11 October 2019 and as of 18 November 2020, it had been one year one month and eight days. The parties had gone through multiple mentions as well as pre-trial conferences and criminal case disclosure conference directions had been given. The Defence had received the Case for the Prosecution, the Case for the Defence had been filed and they had received the Supplemental Bundle from the Prosecution. This matter has also gone through a Criminal Case Resolution conference and the matter was fixed for trial. Two days before the trial, the court received a letter in respect of the application. The reason for this application was that further evidence has surfaced in respect of the case and the Prosecution needed time to verify the same.

It was the Defence’s position that it was not asking for a discharge amounting to an acquittal unless the Prosecution was applying for the same. With reference to PP v Ng Guan Hup, it was submitted that the court has an unfettered discretion to grant a discharge amounting to an acquittal. The underlying theme in the exercise of that discretion was that it was a fine balance between the public interest in ensuring that the criminal acts were punished and fairness to the accused person.

As the Prosecution had indicated that further evidence had surfaced and as much work had been done, the Defence had applied for the matter to be transferred back to the pre-trial conference court instead. The pre-trial conference judge could give directions and time could be given to the Prosecution to ensure that criminal acts are punished. If there is evidence, then the criminal acts may be punished or shall be punished.

It was the Defence’s position that this was in fairness to the accused in not having the charges hanging over his head which is the effect of a discharge not amounting to acquittal. The Prosecution was at liberty to take...

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