Public Prosecutor v Liew Kim Choo

JudgeYong Pung How CJ
Judgment Date11 August 1997
Neutral Citation[1997] SGHC 210
Docket NumberMagistrate's Appeal No 112 of 1997
Date11 August 1997
Published date19 September 2003
Plaintiff CounselHay Hung Chun (Deputy Public Prosecutor)
Citation[1997] SGHC 210
Defendant CounselGurdip Singh (George Sandosham, Gurdip & Partners)
CourtHigh Court (Singapore)
Subject MatterOther circumstantial evidence,Whether statement of facts thereby admissible to prove facts stated therein,Standard of proof,Criminal Procedure and Sentencing,Persons living on or trading in prostitution,s 146(3) Women's Charter (Cap 353),Knowingly living wholly or in part on earnings of the prostitution of another person,Whether facts required to activate deeming provision proved beyond reasonable doubt,Strength of inference required for purposes of conviction at close of trial,Prosecution witness pleaded guilty to related offence,Prostitution,Prosecution to prove elements of offence beyond reasonable doubt,Statutory presumption in Evidence Act that accomplice unworthy of credit and evidence tobe treated with caution,Evidence,Elements of offence inferred from circumstantial evidence,Prosecution's reliance on statement of facts of alleged accomplice,Plea of guilt,Admissibility,Effect of statutory provision deeming elements of offence,Public decency and morals,Use of plea of guilt to prove facts in other proceedings,Evidence inconsistent in subsequent trial,Degrees to which respective rules abrogated by statute,Whether amounted to admission or confession under Evidence Act,Whether statement of facts amounting to confession admissible notwithstanding common law rule,Use of statement of facts to prove facts in trial of accomplice,Statements,Relationship of rule to common law rule prohibiting accomplices from giving evidence against each other in the same trial,Proof of evidence,Whether deeming provision activated,Application by prosecution to cross-examine prosecution witness on previous inconsistent statement,Statement of facts,Relationship between rules and statutory presumption,ss 147(1) & 147(3) Evidence Act (Cap 97),Strength of inference required for purposes of calling defence at close of prosecution's case,ss 30, 116 illustration (b) & 135 Evidence Act (Cap 97, 1990 Ed),Accomplice evidence,Criminal Law,Whether statement of facts caught by common law rule prohibiting use of plea of guilt,ss 17 and 20 Evidence Act,Elements of offence,Common law rule prohibiting such use-,Offences

This was an appeal by the Public Prosecutor against the decision of the district judge in the court below to acquit the respondent, Liew Kim Choo, of two offences under s 146(1) of the Women`s Charter (Cap 353), which reads:

Any person who knowingly lives wholly or in part on the earnings of the prostitution of another person shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 5 years and shall also be liable to a fine not exceeding $10,000.

The accused was brought to trial on the following charges:

You, Liew Kim Choo, Female/36 years old, are charged that you, between 6 March 1996 and 15 April 1996, in Singapore, did knowingly live in part on the earnings of the prostitution of one, Lee Swee Ling, I/C No 770608-14-5306 (FOM) and you have thereby committed an offence punishable under s 146(1) of the Women`s Charter (Cap 353).


You, Liew Kim Choo, Female/36 years old, are charged that you, between 18 March 1996 and 15 April 1996, in Singapore, did knowingly live in part on the earnings of the prostitution of one, Lee Phui Yoke, I/C No 760512-14-5230 (FOM) and you have thereby committed an offence punishable under s 146(1) of the Women`s Charter (Cap 353).

At the close of the defence, the trial judge found that the prosecution had not proved its case beyond reasonable doubt and acquitted the accused of both charges.


Lee Swee Ling (`PW2`) and Lee Phui Yoke (`PW3`) were prostitutes working in Singapore under the direction of one Lim How Kim (`PW4`), also known as `Ah Gu`.

On 16 April 1996, the Anti-Vice Branch of the Criminal Investigation Department (`AVB`) conducted a `sting` operation on prostitution activities involving PW2, PW3 and PW4.
Corporals Lim Seng Chuan (`PW5`) and Lim Eng Yong (`PW6`) checked into Room 303 of the Rangoon Hotel, Singapore. Using a handphone, they dialed telephone number 7334267 and asked for girls to be supplied to them in the hotel.

At around 3.40pm PW2 and PW3 arrived at their hotel room.
They negotiated the price of sexual services with PW5 and PW6. Once the price was agreed upon, a female Sergeant emerged from her hiding place in a cupboard and detained PW2 and PW3. After some questioning, PW2 and PW3 revealed that they had been brought to the hotel by PW4. They agreed to call PW4 and to ask him to come and pick them up from a location near the hotel. PW5 and PW6 together with Detective Lim Yew Boon (`PW8`) waited for PW4 at the pick-up point and detained him when he arrived. PW4 was driving a dark blue Honda registration number SBC 8968 R.

PW4 subsequently pleaded guilty to managing a place of assignation in his motor car registration number SBC 8968 R and to two charges of living off the earnings of prostitution.
He was sentenced to one month`s imprisonment and a fine of $10,000 in respect of each offence. The respondent and her husband, one Tan Choo Peek, were arrested in connection with the charges against PW4 and charged on 17 April 1996. The respondent was charged with the two abovementioned charges and a third charge of managing a place of assignation. Her husband was also charged with management of a place of assignation.

The first appeal

The respondent`s husband was tried together with the respondent but the district judge did not call for their defences and acquitted them, finding that the prosecution had failed to establish a prima facie case. The public prosecutor appealed against the decision of the district judge. The appeal proceeded only on the two charges against the respondent of living off immoral earnings. The charge against the respondent`s husband was not proceeded with. The charge against the respondent of managing a place of assignation was similarly not proceeded with.

On appeal, the parties appeared before me.
The public prosecutor argued that he had adduced sufficient circumstantial evidence from which it could be reasonably inferred that the respondent had committed the offences with which she had been charged. I was in agreement with the public prosecutor. In my grounds of decision [see [1997] 2 SLR 443] dated 31 March 1997 I stated [at [para ] 50]:

In my opinion, a prima facie case against the respondent had been shown for the following reasons: (1) there was evidence not inherently incredible to reasonably infer that the respondent was the person who made the arrangements for the prostitutes; and (2) there was evidence not inherently incredible to reasonably infer that she was receiving payment for this because her efforts were unlikely to be gratuitous.

On a minimal evaluation of the evidence, I found that the district judge had erred in concluding that there was no case to answer.
I therefore remitted the case to the district court for the defence to be called. The trial judge, having done so, concluded that the prosecution had not proved its case beyond reasonable doubt and acquitted the respondent. The case before me was therefore the second appeal against acquittal.

The charges against the respondent

The prosecution`s case was that the respondent, also known to friends and business associates as `Katherine`, was responsible for arranging for customers to patronise prostitutes working for `Ah Gu`. The respondent would contact `Ah Gu` whenever she had potential clients for his prostitutes. `Ah Gu` would also contact her from time to time to ask whether she had any clients for him. The number `Ah Gu` would use to call her was 7334267.

The telephone number 7334267 was registered in the name of Phoenix Escort Agency, the proprietor of which was the respondent.
The respondent also used the same number for another business, Anna Beauty Salon, of which she was also the proprietor.

The prosecution alleged that Phoenix Escort Agency and Anna Beauty Salon were used by the respondent to cover her involvement in the prostitution business.
Potential customers would contact her at 7334267 to ask for girls. PW4 would also contact her at 7334267 to ask for customers. The respondent was the middlewoman between the customers and PW4. The respondent would inform PW4 where the customers wished to meet the girls. PW4 would then arrange to send the girls to the designated premises.

Upon arrival at the premises, the girls would call 7334267 to inform the respondent that they had arrived.
They never, however, knew the identity of the person who answered the phone at 7334267. After sex, the customers would pay the girls directly for the services rendered. The girls would then call 7334267 to ask for someone to pick them up. They would be picked up by PW4. They would keep some of the money for themselves and hand over the rest to PW4. PW4 would keep some for himself and pay the remainder to the respondent. This was the prosecution`s case.

The evidence against the respondent

The evidence against the respondent was largely circumstantial. She admitted that she used the telephone number 7334267 for her escort agency and beauty salon. Curiously, although the phone line for 7334267 was installed at an address in Tomlinson Road, the registered address for the respondent`s businesses was at Loyang Rise.

The respondent explained in evidence that her husband had once owned the residence at Tomlinson Road.
At the time, she used the number at Tomlinson Road for her business. When her husband sold that property, she wished to retained the number so as not to lose her customers. She therefore preserved the line at the Tomlinson Road house, which was sold to a friend. She then purchased a handphone, telephone number 98183928, to which she transferred calls made to 7334267. Callers to number 7334267 were therefore redirected to the respondent`s handphone 98183928.

The respondent took out advertisements in Chinese newspapers offering:

Facial cleansing for males only. From here and abroad. If interested, call Miss Anna at 7334267.

The prosecution suggested that these advertisements, although purporting to attract business for her beauty salon, represented veiled efforts on the part of the respondent to attract customers for prostitutes.
It alleged that `Miss Anna` was actually the respondent, Liew Kim Choo, the proprietor of Anna Beauty Salon. Persons responding to the invitation to call 7334267 for `services` would have their calls redirected to the respondent`s handphone, 98183928

The prosecution sought to establish some relationship between PW4 and the respondent.
In his evidence-in-chief, PW4 admitted that PW2 and PW3 worked for him as prostitutes but claimed not to know the respondent. He also claimed that he alone determined the price the girls should ask for sex. In pleading guilty to the charges against him, PW4 had earlier admitted to a statement of facts which contained statements inconsistent with his evidence-in-chief. The DPP thus made an application under s 147 of the Evidence Act to cross-examine PW4. The district judge granted the application.

In cross-examination by the DPP on his statement of facts, PW4 admitted that he knew one `Anna` who had a `permanent wave salon` and that he would contact her at telephone number 7334267.
PW4 said he knew her through newspaper advertisements. He stated that he would call `Anna` to ask if she had customers for his prostitutes. If there were customers, `Anna` would call him back on his handphone, number 98245913. The prosecution suggested that PW4 obtained customers from the same `Anna` referred to in the newspaper advertisements allegedly taken out by the respondent, ie that the respondent was supplying customers to PW4. The force of this suggestion was amplified by PW3`s evidence that that the name of the person she contacted at 7334267 was one `Miss Tan` - the respondent`s maiden name is `Liew` but her husband`s surname is `Tan`.

PW4, however, maintained his claim not to know the true identity of `Anna`.
He did give evidence that `Anna` would inform him of the price customers were to pay. He also said he told his...

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