Public Prosecutor v Kho Jabing

JudgeTay Yong Kwang J
Judgment Date18 November 2013
Neutral Citation[2013] SGHC 251
CourtHigh Court (Singapore)
Hearing Date14 August 2013
Docket NumberCriminal Case No 31 of 2009
Plaintiff CounselSeraphina Fong, Lee Lit Cheng and Teo Lu Jia DPPs (Attorney-General's Chambers)
Defendant CounselAnand Nalachandran (Braddell Brothers LLP), Josephus Tan and Keith Lim (Patrick Tan LLC)
Subject MatterCriminal Law,Statutory offences,Murder re-sentencing
Published date22 June 2016
Tay Yong Kwang J:

Jabing Kho (“the convicted person”) and Galing Anak Kujat (“Galing”) were convicted of murder under s 300(c) read with s 34 of the Penal Code (Cap 224, 2008 Rev Ed) (“Penal Code”) and punishable under s 302 of the same by Kan Ting Chiu J and the then mandatory death sentence was passed on them accordingly. The present proceedings concern the re-sentencing of the convicted person pursuant to s 4(5)(f) of the Penal Code (Amendment) Act 2012 (Act No. 32 of 2012) (“the PCAA”). After hearing the submissions made by both parties, I re-sentenced the convicted person to life imprisonment with effect from the date of his arrest (26 February 2008) and to receive 24 strokes of the cane.

The prosecution, which urged me to re-sentence the convicted person to death, has appealed against my decision.

The background

The convicted person was born on 4 January 1984. The charge against him at the trial read as follows:

That you, Jabing Kho, on or about the 17th day of February 2008, at about 8.19pm, at the open space near Geylang Drive, Singapore, together with one Galing Anak Kujat, in furtherance of the common intention of both of you, committed murder by causing the death of one Cao Ruyin, male 40 years old, and you have thereby committed an offence punishable under section 302 read with section 34 of the Penal Code, Chapter 224.

The co-accused, Galing, faced a similar charge and both the convicted person and Galing were tried together. On 30 July 2010, Kan J convicted both of them of them of murder committed in furtherance of their common intention and sentenced them to receive the then mandatory death penalty. Kan J accepted that the convicted person’s offence fell within s 300(c) of the Penal Code. His judgment appears at Public Prosecutor v Galing Anak Kujat and another [2010] SGHC 212 (“Kan J’s judgment”).

Both Galing and the convicted person appealed against Kan J’s decision. On 24 May 2011, the Court of Appeal affirmed the decision against the convicted person. Galing’s appeal was allowed by the Court of Appeal which substituted his conviction for murder with an offence of robbery with hurt committed in furtherance of a common intention under s 394 read with s 34 of the Penal Code (see Kho Jabing and another v Public Prosecutor [2011] 3 SLR 634 at [38] – “the Court of Appeal’s judgment”). Galing’s case was remitted to Kan J for sentencing in respect of the substituted offence and he was subsequently sentenced to imprisonment for 18 years and 6 months and to receive 19 strokes of the cane.

On 30 April 2013, the Court of Appeal confirmed that the convicted person was convicted under s 300(c) of the Penal Code. It allowed his application for his case to be remitted to the High Court for re-sentencing under s 4(5)(f) of the PCAA. The relevant sections of the PCAA are as follow: Section 302 of the Penal Code is repealed and the following section substituted therefor:

Punishment for murder

-(1) Whoever commits murder within the meaning of section 300(a) shall be punished with death. Whoever commits murder within the meaning of section 300(b), (c) or (d) shall be punished with death or imprisonment for life and shall, if he is not punished with death also be liable to caning.

-(5) Where on the appointed day, the Court of Appeal has dismissed an appeal brought by a person for an offence of murder under section 302 of the Penal Code, the following provisions shall apply:

if the Court of Appeal clarifies under paragraph (c)(ii) or (d) that the person is guilty of murder within the meaning of section 300(b), (c) or (d) of the Penal Code, it shall remit the case back to the High Court for the person to be re-sentenced; when the case is remitted back to the High Court under paragraph (f), the High Court shall re-sentence the person to death or imprisonment for life and the person shall, if he is not re-sentenced to death, also be liable to be re-sentenced to caning;

If – any Judge of the High Court, having heard the trial relating to an offence of murder, is unable for any reason to sentence, affirm the sentence or re-sentence a person under this section or

any other Judge of the High Court or any Judge of Appeal, respectively, may do so.

Kan J has retired as a Judge of the High Court. The case was therefore placed before me for re-sentencing pursuant to s 4(6) set out above.

Briefly, the facts of the case are as follow. The convicted person and Galing are from Sarawak, Malaysia. At the time of the offence, they were both working in Singapore on work permits. On 17 February 2008, both of them had agreed with three of their fellow countrymen, Vencent, Anthony and Alan, to rob two of Vencent’s co-workers at a worksite in Tiong Bahru. However, as the two co-workers had fortuitously left the worksite, the robbery plan was aborted. The five men remained at Tiong Bahru to consume liquor. Subsequently, they left for Geylang intending to find some victims to rob.

At Geylang, the convicted person and Galing walked some distance away from their fellow countrymen and spotted two possible male prey, Cao Ruyin who is the deceased person named in the charge (“the deceased”) and Wu Jun, walking along a path in an open space near Geylang Drive. Galing assaulted Wu Jun with a belt wrapped around his fist with the metal buckle exposed. The convicted person attacked the deceased with a piece of wood that he had picked up while approaching the deceased. Galing also assaulted the deceased with the metal buckle.

The deceased suffered severe head injuries from the attack and passed away in a hospital on 23 February 2008. The cause of death was certified by a pathologist to be severe head injury. Wu Jun escaped with minor injuries and called the police. When they went to the scene of crime, the deceased was lying on the ground unconscious, with his face covered in blood.

The deceased’s mobile phone was taken away by Galing. The five Sarawakians regrouped at a coffee shop in Geylang where Galing sold the said mobile phone to Vencent for $300. The five of them took $50 each from the sale proceeds and spent the remaining $50 on food and drinks.

The prosecution’s submissions

When the law provides a maximum sentence for an offence, that maximum sentence is reserved for the worst type of cases. This expression should be understood to be marking out a range and an offence may be within it notwithstanding the fact that it could have been worse than it was (see Sim Gek Yong v Public Prosecutor [1995] 1 SLR(R) 185 at [12]).

Where the law provides for a limited choice of the death penalty or of life imprisonment, neither of the options should be considered the default position. Instead, all the facts and circumstances must be taken into consideration in order to determine if the accused person ought to suffer the death penalty (Sia Ah Kew and others v Public Prosecutor [1974 – 1976] SLR(R) 54). In that case, which involved kidnapping for ransom, the Court of Appeal opined that the maximum sentence would be appropriate where the manner of the kidnapping or the acts or conduct of the kidnappers were such as to outrage the feelings of the community. The Court of Appeal also held that it would be wrong to take the view that the alternative sentence of life imprisonment should be imposed only when there were some very exceptional circumstances which did not justify the imposition of the death penalty.

The views in Sia Ah Kew and others v Public Prosecutor were endorsed by the Court of Appeal in Panya Martmontree and others v Public Prosecutor [1995] 2 SLR(R) 806. This was a case of gang-robbery with murder under s 396 of the Penal Code (Cap 224, 1985 Rev Ed) which provided that:

If any one of 5 or more persons who are conjointly committing gang-robbery, commits murder in so committing gang-robbery, every one of those persons shall be punished with death or imprisonment for life, and if he is not sentenced to death, shall also be punished with caning with not less than 12 strokes.

The Court of Appeal held (at [66]) that the appellants’ “acts of violence were mercilessly executed and gravely abhorrent in their execution” and “were amply sufficient to outrage the feelings of the community”. The death sentences were therefore upheld.

During the introduction of the amendments to the law on the mandatory death penalty in homicide cases, the Minister for Law made a statement in Parliament (see Changes to the Application of the Mandatory Death Penalty to Homicide Offences (Statement by Minister for Law), Singapore Parliamentary Debates, Official Report (9 July 2012) vol 89):

In deciding whether and how to apply the death penalty to a particular offence, several factors have to be considered. In particular I will mention, in broad terms, three interconnected factors: the seriousness of the offence, both in terms of the harm that the commission of the offence is likely to cause to the victim and to society, and the personal culpability of the accused; how frequent or widespread an offence is; deterrence.

These three factors must be considered in their totality. For example, the fact that...

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2 cases
  • PP v Kho Jabing
    • Singapore
    • High Court (Singapore)
    • 18 Noviembre 2013
    ...Prosecutor Plaintiff and Kho Jabing Defendant [2013] SGHC 251 Tay Yong Kwang J Criminal Case No 31 of 2009 High Court Criminal Procedure and Sentencing—Sentencing—Murder—Respondent convicted of murder under s 300 (c) Penal Code (Cap 224, 2008 Rev Ed) —Re-sentencing of accused pursuant to s ......
  • Public Prosecutor v Wang Wenfeng
    • Singapore
    • High Court (Singapore)
    • 7 Febrero 2014
    ...the offender was young (18 years old at the time of offence) and had sub-normal intelligence. In Public Prosecutor v Kho Jabing [2013] SGHC 251 (“Kho Jabing”), the offender was also considered to be young (24 years old at the time of offence) and his choice of weapon was described as opport......

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