Public Prosecutor v Han John Han

CourtHigh Court (Singapore)
Judgment Date15 January 2007
Date15 January 2007
Docket NumberCriminal Case No 32 of 2006
Public Prosecutor
Han John Han

[2007] SGHC 8

Choo Han Teck J

Criminal Case No 32 of 2006

High Court

Criminal Procedure and Sentencing–Sentencing–Mentally disordered offenders–Accused suffering from delusional disorder at time of offence–Risk of recurrence very low but not impossible–Accused's family undertaking to keep accused under medical observation after release from prison–Accused having prior unblemished record–Whether shorter custodial sentence appropriate–Criminal Procedure and Sentencing–Sentencing–Principles–Whether period of remission should be factor in deciding appropriate length of custodial sentence

The accused plunged an old sword into the chest of his pregnant wife and killed her. As a consequence, the foetus also died. The accused pleaded guilty to and was convicted on a charge of culpable homicide not amounting to murder under s 304 (a) of the Penal Code (Cap 224, 1985 Rev Ed) for killing his wife. A similar charge (under s 315 of the Penal Code) for causing the death of the foetus was taken into account for the purposes of sentencing.

In mitigation, counsel for the accused submitted that the accused had been suffering from a delusional disorder that led him to believe that his wife was having an affair and that she and her lover were intending to harm him. Counsel for the accused maintained that this delusional disorder had already passed and the risk for future violence was low thus a lighter sentence was in order. The psychiatric report on the accused by one Dr Koh stated that he was suffering from an abnormality of mind that substantially impaired his mental responsibility at the time of the offence but was not of unsound mind. The issue before the court was the appropriate sentence to pass under the circumstances of the case.

Held, sentencing the accused to three years' imprisonment:

(1) In determining the appropriate sentence in the circumstances, the fact that the act of homicide killed not only the accused's wife but his unborn child as well was relevant. But the two deaths had to be considered together in so far as the “mental responsibility” of the accused was concerned. The medical reports submitted regarding the accused's mental condition showed that the psychiatrists treating the accused were of the view that the accused was no longer troubled by the psychotic condition that impaired his mental responsibility at the time of the offence, and that, by all reasonable tests and observation, the risk of a recurrence was “very low” but not impossible. The accused's family gave an undertaking to keep the accused under medical observation after his release from prison. This, together with the fact that the accused had an unblemished record, up until the offence had good familial and professional relationships, had committed the offence without planning or deliberation and had been extremely remorseful over his actions - even contemplating suicide thereafter - warranted a sentence of three years' imprisonment: at [9], [11] to [13].

(2) With regard to sentencing, the period of remission should not be a factor for the court's consideration. The court's sentence of imprisonment was made as a punishment for past conduct, whereas the period of remission was an executive decision being a reward for future conduct which the accused might or might not earn while in prison: at [10].

[Observation: Section 84 of the Penal Code was a proposition of law, a general defence that applied to all offences (save perhaps for strict liability offences). The question whether the facts fit the law was one that had to be determined by the court. There was nothing, in principle, that prevented a court from making a finding that an accused was or was not of unsound mind within the meaning of s 84 even without medical evidence. Evidence of “psychiatric disorder” would be helpful to the court in deciding whether there were any predispositions or personal history of the accused that might make it more likely that he was legally insane. It was possible that a person who suffered from a psychiatric illness might be declared legally insane (under s 84) and be acquitted and detained at the President's pleasure, or be convicted under circumstances in which Exception 7 applied and be imprisoned: at [5] to [8].]

Criminal Procedure Code (Cap 68, 1985 Rev Ed) ss 314, 315, 318

Penal Code (Cap 224, 1985 Rev Ed) ss 84, 300 Exception 7, 304 (a), 315

Shahla Iqbal (Deputy Public Prosecutor) for the Prosecution

Subhas Anandan and Sunil Sudheesan (Harry Elias Partnership) for the accused.

Choo Han Teck J

1 At about one o'clock in the morning of 16 February 2006, the accused plunged an old sword into the chest of his wife and killed her. The wife had been carrying their third child and as a consequence of her death, the foetus, found to be about 33 weeks in gestation at the post-mortem, also died. The accused pleaded guilty to and was convicted on a charge of culpable homicide not amounting to murder...

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10 cases
  • Tan Chor Jin v Public Prosecutor
    • Singapore
    • Court of Three Judges (Singapore)
    • July 18, 2008
    ...decided by the court in the light of any relevant medical evidence (see PP v Chia Moh Heng [2003] SGHC 108 at [6] and PP v Han John Han [2007] 1 SLR 1180 at 21 Regarding the first point (ie, the relationship between s 84 and s 85(2)(b) of the Penal Code), there are cases which imply that th......
  • Public Prosecutor v Kong Peng Yee
    • Singapore
    • Court of Three Judges (Singapore)
    • June 27, 2018
    ...some guidance but are of limited value because the facts of this case are unique. It relies on Public Prosecutor v Han John Han [2007] 1 SLR(R) 1180, where the appeal against the original sentence of three years’ imprisonment was allowed in Criminal Appeal No 1 of 2007 (“Han John Han”). On ......
  • Lim Ghim Peow v Public Prosecutor
    • Singapore
    • Court of Three Judges (Singapore)
    • October 17, 2014
    ...the sentence imposed was not close to the then maximum fixed term of imprisonment of ten years was Public Prosecutor v Han John Han [2007] 1 SLR(R) 1180 (“Han John Han”), where the offender’s sentence was enhanced by the Court of Appeal from three to five years’ imprisonment. Furthermore, t......
  • PP v Lim Ghim Peow
    • Singapore
    • High Court (Singapore)
    • January 27, 2014
    ...3 SLR 178 (refd) PP v AFR [2011] 3 SLR 833 (refd) PP v Goh Lee Yin [2008] 1 SLR (R) 824; [2008] 1 SLR 824 (refd) PP v Han John Han [2007] 1 SLR (R) 1180; [2007] 1 SLR 1180 (refd) PP v Lim Ah Seng [2007] 2 SLR (R) 957; [2007] 2 SLR 957 (refd) PP v Tan Fook Sum [1999] 1 SLR (R) 1022; [1999] 2......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
2 books & journal articles
    • Singapore
    • Singapore Academy of Law Journal Nbr. 2008, December 2008
    • December 1, 2008
    ...found judicial expression in the words of Choo Han Teck J in PP v Dolah bin Omar[2001] 4 SLR 302, and more recently in PP v Han John Han[2007] 1 SLR 1180. The problem with a finite sentence is that a judge has to predict at the outset whether the offender will, and how long it will take him......
  • Criminal Law
    • Singapore
    • Singapore Academy of Law Annual Review Nbr. 2007, December 2007
    • December 1, 2007
    ...liability 11.1 In the case of PP v Han John Han[2007] 1 SLR 1180, Choo Han Teck J made a suggestion that the general defence of unsoundness of mind in s 84 of the Penal Code (Cap 224, 1985 Rev Ed) does not apply to strict liability offences (at [6]). Although it was admitted that this was ‘......

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