Public Prosecutor v Liew Leun Kwah

CourtMagistrates' Court (Singapore)
JudgeChong Kah Wei
Judgment Date05 July 2003
Neutral Citation[2003] SGMC 23
Citation[2003] SGMC 23
Published date02 October 2003
Plaintiff CounselSim Ngin Kit (Police Prosecutor)
Defendant CounselBruce Wong Teck Kow (Choo & Joethy)

1 The accused, Mr Liew Leun Kwah (“Liew”), claimed trial to the following charge of loitering with intent to commit a seizable and non-bailable offence while being a reputed thief, under section 27(2) of the Miscellaneous Offences (Public Order and Nuisance) Act, Cap 184:

MAC 9088/02 (Re-amended Charge) (Exh. “P1C”)

You, Liew Leun Kwah, M/68 years, NRIC No: S1104336D, D.O.B. 1934, are charged that you on or about the 17th day of November 2002 at about 11.30pm, along Serangoon Road, bus stop infront of Hindoo Road, Singapore, being a reputed thief, did loiter with intent to commit a seizable and non-bailable offence, to wit, theft from person and you have thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 27(2) of the Miscellaneous Offences (Public Order & Nuisance) Act, Chapter 184.

2 At the conclusion of the trial, I found that the Prosecution had not proven its case against Liew beyond a reasonable doubt and accordingly I acquitted him on the charge. The Prosecution has now appealed against the order of acquittal.

Issues in this trial

3 In this trial, the Court was faced with essentially two different versions and interpretations of the events. One Bangladeshi national, Kalam, alleged that his wallet had been stolen at a bus stop along Serangoon Road. Another Bangladeshi national, Hatem Akkas, alleged that Liew had been observed holding a wallet in his right hand after his right hand had been seen in the proximity of Kalam’s rear right pants pocket. Hatem Akkas also alleged that Liew subsequently mingled in the crowds of people boarding the buses each time a bus came into the bus stop. The Prosecution contended that Liew was a reputed thief, and had been loitering at the bus stop concerned with the intent to commit theft by picking the pockets of the bus commuters waiting at the bus stop.

4 Liew in his Defence denied the allegations, and contended that he had been waiting for a bus at the bus stop concerned. He contended that the wallet that Hatem Akkas had seen him holding was his own wallet, which he had taken out in preparation to pay the bus fare. He denied mingling in the crowd of bus commuters whenever a bus came into the bus stop.

5 The main issue which the Court had to resolve was which version of facts was to be believed.

Undisputed and admitted facts

6 The following facts are either undisputed or admitted by Liew. On 17 November 2002, at about 11.00pm to 11.30pm, Liew was at the bus stop along Serangoon Road, located opposite Hindoo Road. He was carrying with him a Chinese newspaper, Lianhe Wanbao, published on the same date. He joined the queue to board a bus service number 67, which was the same queue that the alleged victim, Kalam was in, before leaving the queue without boarding the bus. Subsequently, he boarded a bus service number 147. One Corporal Imran Nazqin bin Ahmad (“Cpl Imran”) boarded this bus service number 147 and requested him to alight to assist with investigations.

7 Cpl Imran conducted a search on Liew and found only the Chinese newspaper. No incriminating items were found on Liew. Cpl Imran searched the bus stop, but could not find any stolen wallet or sharp cutting instrument.

The Prosecution's case

8 I now turn to the evidence in dispute. The Prosecution called five witnesses:

(a) PW1 – SSSgt Yeo Lay Lay – investigating officer

(b) PW2 – Kalam – victim / Bangladeshi foreign worker

(c) PW3 – Hatem Akkas – witness / Bangladeshi foreign worker

(d) PW4 – Taro Lalu Sheikh – witness / Bangladeshi foreign worker

(e) PW5 – Cpl Imran Nazqin bin Ahmad – arresting officer

9 All witnesses gave oral testimony on the witness stand. The Prosecution’s evidence consisted mainly of Kalam and Hatem Akkas’ testimony. The Prosecution called Taro Lalu Sheikh (“Taro”) to give evidence regarding Liew’s conduct after Kalam had left to call the police. Cpl Imran was called to give evidence regarding the events leading up to Liew’s arrest. Senior Staff Sergeant Yeo Lay Lay (“SSSgt Yeo”) was called to adduce evidence of Liew’s record of previous convictions.

Evidence of the victim, Kalam (PW2)

10 Kalam was a Bangladeshi national who had been working in Singapore for about three years, and was presently working as a welder in Jurong Shipyard. He testified that on Sunday, 17 November 2002, at sometime past 11.00pm, he was at the bus stop along Serangoon Road waiting to take bus service number 67 to return to his quarters. The bus stop was very crowded, with approximately more than fifty persons at the bus stop. Every Sunday, the bus stop would be very crowded because workers would be rushing back to their quarters.

11 After waiting about fifteen or twenty minutes, a bus service number 67 arrived, and more then fifty persons rushed to board this bus. It was very crowded and chaotic, and there was no queue. Everybody crowded around the doorway and were pushing. The crowd was about five to six persons deep when Kalam was about to board the bus. Kalam boarded the bus, and when he was about to pay his bus fare, he discovered that his wallet was missing from his right rear pants pocket. His wallet contained one cashcard, one bus card, telephone card, five dollars, a temporary police security pass and a small phone book. He discovered that his right rear pants pocket had been cut diagonally.

12 When Kalam realised that his wallet was missing, he rushed down from the bus. A fellow Bangladeshi named Hatem Akkas, who was a stranger, told him that one male Chinese (later identified as Liew) had taken his wallet. Kalam initially testified that Hatem Akkas was standing just behind Kalam at the bus stop when Kalam alighted from the bus, but later testified that Hatem Akkas was standing at the side of the bus stop, some distance away from the road side. When queried by the Court, Kalam stated that Hatem Akkas was about five to six persons behind him when he was about to board the bus.

13 Kalam added that Hatem Akkas told him, together with a neck gesture, that Liew had taken his wallet and had given it to another male Chinese. Liew and another male Chinese were standing together.[i] In cross-examination, Kalam clarified that he did not personally witness Liew handing the wallet to the other male Chinese, and that it was Hatem Akkas who told him about it.

14 When Hatem Akkas told him about Liew, Kalam stood and watched Liew for a while. He saw Liew moving in and out of the crowd, and Kalam felt that it looked suspicious. After the bus service number 67 left, there were still more than thirty persons at the bus stop. They both moved a few steps towards Liew, and when they were standing beside Liew, Hatem Akkas said “this is the man that took your wallet”. Kalam initially testified that Hatem Akkas did not describe how Liew had taken his wallet, but subsequently changed his evidence and said that Hatem Akkas did tell him that Liew had put the newspaper at the back portion of his pocket and taken his wallet. However, Kalam confirmed that Hatem Akkas did not say that he saw Liew cut Kalam’s trouser pocket.

15 Kalam then called for the police using his handphone. Hatem Akkas was with Kalam during the period that he waited for the police. When the police did not arrive after a wait of fifteen to twenty minutes, Kalam called his friend, Taro Lalu Sheikh (“Taro”) and asked him to come to the bus stop quickly as someone had taken his wallet. Kalam later added that he had told Taro over the telephone that his wallet had been taken by a person who was still at the bus stop, and that he would like to call the police himself, and he asked Taro to come quickly. Taro was living nearby, and he arrived within five minutes. Kalam then pointed Liew and another male Chinese out to Taro and asked Taro to help him keep a watch on them while he went to the police post to bring the police. Taro agreed, and Kalam ran to the police post. Before Kalam left the bus stop to call the police, he noticed that Liew was holding a newspaper.

16 In cross-examination, Kalam stated that he and Hatem Akkas did not arrest Liew on the spot themselves, but instead called for the police, because they had been taught by their Singaporean employers to call the police and not to take the law into their own hands if they encountered any problem.

17 At the police post, Kalam told the police that his wallet had been stolen, and showed his pants with the pocket cut open. He then followed the police in a police patrol car back to the bus stop.

18 It took Kalam about fifteen minutes to go to the police post and return with the police. When Kalam and the police arrived back at the bus stop, the two male Chinese persons were missing. Kalam asked Taro, who pointed out that Liew had rushed into a bus at the bus stop. When queried by the Court, Kalam stated that when he asked Taro where the two Chinese persons were, Taro said that both the male Chinese had boarded the bus.

19 The police then stopped the bus, boarded the bus and brought Liew down from the bus. When queried by the Court, Kalam stated that he had told one Staff Sergeant Abdul Khaled bin Abdullah (“SSgt Khaled”) that there were two male Chinese involved, but SSgt Khaled boarded the bus and only detained Liew. Kalam added that he had boarded the bus with SSgt Khaled, and had pointed Liew out to SSgt Khaled. Kalam did not see the other male Chinese on the bus. When queried by the Court, Kalam stated that when he boarded the bus service number 147, Liew was about to climb up to the upper deck of the bus. Kalam did not search the upper deck of the bus, and thought that the other male Chinese could have gone to the upper deck.

20 The police then talked to Liew some distance away from the bus stop. After the police had talked to Liew, the police called Kalam and showed Kalam one wallet, the newspaper and some pens, and Kalam told the police that these items did not belong to him. Kalam and Liew were then both brought to the police post in separate police patrol cars. Kalam never eventually recovered his...

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