Public Prosecutor v Justin Chan Yong Hui

CourtDistrict Court (Singapore)
JudgeWong Choon Ning
Judgment Date29 August 2014
Neutral Citation[2014] SGDC 340
Citation[2014] SGDC 340
Docket NumberDAC No 902094 of 2014
Publication Date08 September 2014
Plaintiff CounselDPPs Mr Rajiv Rai, Mr Wong Thai Chuan, Mr Nicholas Lai and Ms Zhou Yihong
Defendant CounselMr Gregory John Fong Mun Yung (Beston Law LLP)
District Judge Wong Choon Ning:

The accused pleaded guilty before me to a charge under Section 323 of the Penal Code (Chapter 224, 2008 Rev Ed) for having voluntarily caused hurt to one Foo Peng Xiang Donald by using his right foot to stamp the latter’s face thrice, thereby causing him bodily injury. The offence had taken place on 21 Dec 2013, at or about 4.35 am, along River Valley Road, Singapore.

The accused was unrepresented when he elected to plead guilty to the charge, which was reduced from an original charge under Section 325 of the Penal Code, after the accused had paid $3,000 to the victim as compensation. When the prosecution subsequently objected strenuously to a probation order despite a favourable probation report and sought for a custodial sentence, the accused engaged legal counsel to further mitigate on his behalf.

After hearing the learned counsel’s written mitigation plea and the prosecution’s further address on sentence, in consideration of the facts and circumstances of the case, I placed the accused on 18 months’ probation (3 months on intensive probation and 15 months on supervised probation), subject to the following four additional conditions :- The accused was to remain indoors from 10 pm to 6 am unless otherwise varied by the Probation Services Branch, in accordance with the guidelines approved by the Court; The accused was to perform 150 hours of community service; The accused was to make a good faith effort towards completion of his course of study, namely, the Bachelor in Science (Hons) degree, with AY, at BZ; and A bond in the sum of $5,000 to ensure the accused’s good behaviour during the period of probation was to be executed by the accused’s mother.

The prosecution is dissatisfied with the order of sentence and now appeals against it. Upon the application of the prosecution, the probation order has been stayed pending the outcome of this appeal.

FACTS OF THE CASE

The Statement of Facts (PS 1), to which the accused admitted without qualification, revealed that, on 21 Dec 2013, sometime past 4 am, the victim, aged 27 years, had just left a pub with his friends when he was confronted by the accused. At the material time, the accused was under the mistaken impression that the victim had earlier molested his female friend.1 There was an argument2 and a misunderstanding arose over a comment which had allegedly been uttered by the victim and/or his friends. The accused became aggressive and he started pushing the victim. When the victim fell on the ground, the accused kicked the latter on his face thrice. At this juncture, a volunteer special constable who had observed the incident intervened and stopped the accused.

On the same day, at about 7.03 am, the victim was examined at the Department of Emergency Medicine at Singapore General Hospital. He was found to have suffered :- A fracture of the left orbital floor, with a mildly displaced fracture through the nasolacrimal duct (tear duct); (b)Left periorbital swelling; A large haematoma over the right forehead measuring 3 cm by 3.5 cm, with no underlying fracture detected; and An abrasion over the left eyebrow measuring 1.5 cm. The victim was prescribed a course of antibiotics, analgesia and eye drops, and he was given seven days’ medical leave. Although there were signs of left eye diplopia (double vision in the left eye) during the initial examination, they do not appear to be permanent.3

ANTECEDENTS

The accused was a first offender.

PROSECUTION’S ADDRESS ON SENTENCE

The prosecution submitted that the accused should be incarcerated and it urged the Court to sentence the accused to 2 to 4 months’ imprisonment.4 Notwithstanding the probation officer’s report which was in favour of probation for the accused, the prosecution objected to probation on two main grounds. First, since the accused was 22 years old, he qualified as an adult. It was submitted that deterrence, rather than rehabilitation, should, therefore, be the dominant sentencing consideration for this accused.5 Although there have been past cases where offenders over the age of 21 years were granted probation, those cases could be distinguished on the grounds that those offenders had mental conditions which contributed to their commission of the offences and they had demonstrated a very strong propensity for reform.6

Secondly, the prosecution objected to probation being granted on the ground that the offence was serious. The accused had been the aggressor. He should have chosen to resolve things with the victim in a civil manner by talking things out instead of resorting to violence.7 His attack on the victim was unprovoked and it resulted in serious and multiple injuries.8 In particular, he had caused a fracture near the eye area which was a vulnerable part of the human anatomy.9 Lastly, the prosecution urged the Court to take into consideration the fact that, had the charge not been reduced, the accused could have been prosecuted for an offence of voluntarily causing grievous hurt.10

The prosecution’s position was that a custodial sentence should be imposed. However, in the event that the Court was not minded to incarcerate the accused, the prosecution submitted that probation would be more suitable than a fine, given the rehabilitative purpose of probation and the fact that the accused was young.11

MITIGATION PLEA

Both the accused and his counsel tendered written mitigation pleas and addressed the Court further in oral mitigation. In his written mitigation plea (D2), the learned counsel informed the Court that the accused’s parents were divorced. Although the accused resided with his mother, he was financially supported by his father. The Court was informed that, should the accused be incarcerated, his father, who was a very strict and traditional man, would immediately withdraw his financial support for the accused’s current studies. This would mean that the accused would not be able to continue with his degree course and further education.12

In mitigation, the learned counsel submitted that the accused had committed the offence due to the folly of youth and under the false impression that he was defending the honour of a female friend. His judgment had also been clouded by his bout of drinking at the pub prior to the incident. When an argument ensued between him and the victim’s group, the accused acted impulsively and without thought he kicked the victim three times when the latter fell down.13 The assault had taken place on the spur of the moment and it had lasted no more than a minute or two. The accused had also acted alone against the victim who was then with his group of friends.14

The learned counsel submitted that, even though the accused was over 21 years of age, he was a prime candidate for rehabilitation and reform. The accused was currently pursuing a Bachelor of Science (Hons) degree with BZ. Prior to enrolling for his current course, the accused had completed a diploma course, in which he had achieved better than average results.

The defence also tendered a testimonial from one of the accused’s lecturers, Mr Frankie Yee. In the testimonial, Mr Yee attested to the accused’s exemplary performance in school. He had found the accused to be a very conscientious and diligent student, who was consistent in his studies and who took pride in all his coursework. The accused was regular in his school attendance and prompt in handing in his assignments. His lecturers had found him to be very bright and motivated, and his work reflected careful research and much effort. Overall, Mr Yee found the accused’s commitment to his studies to be highly commendable. In the testimonial, Mr Yee further gave his assurance to the Court that, if the Court were to give the accused another chance, he would take on the personal responsibility to counsel the accused and ensure that he continued to do well in his studies.15

With reference to the prosecution’s repeated submission on no less than four occasions that deterrence should outweigh rehabilitation in sentencing for this case, the learned counsel submitted...

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