Public Prosecutor v Lim Poh Lye and Another

JurisdictionSingapore
Judgment Date24 January 2005
Date24 January 2005
Docket NumberCriminal Case No 35 of 2004
CourtHigh Court (Singapore)
Public Prosecutor
Plaintiff
and
Lim Poh Lye and another
Defendant

[2005] SGHC 13

Choo Han Teck J

Criminal Case No 35 of 2004

High Court

Criminal Law–Complicity–Common intention–Accused charged with culpable homicide amounting to murder–Co-accused not causing injury causing death–Whether co-accused implicated in murder through common intention to kill–Criminal Law–Offences–Murder–Accused charged with culpable homicide amounting to murder–Whether accused intending to cause fatal injury–Whether injury caused by accident–Meaning of “bodily injury” in s 300 (c) Penal Code–Section 300 (c) Penal Code (Cap 224, 1985 Rev Ed)

The two accused, Lim and Koh, together with a third man, Ng, planned to rob the victim. Their plan involved abducting the victim in his car and forcing him to sign some cheques. They would then draw the cheques, drug the victim, leave him in his car, and flee. On Ng's suggestion, they agreed to bring knives along to threaten or coerce the victim.

On 2 April 2004, as planned, the trio met up with the victim, abducted him in his car and forced him to sign several cheques in their favour. They intended to draw them at a bank thereafter. When the cheques were presented at the bank, the bank officer insisted on verifying the cheques with the drawer.

Whilst waiting for the bank to call the victim to verify the cheques, the victim made several attempts to escape from the car. To prevent him from escaping, the two accused assaulted him. The victim subsequently died. Ng and Koh fled the country, but Koh subsequently surrendered. Lim also surrendered. Ng was still at large.

An autopsy report revealed that the significant injuries were seven stab wounds to the legs. One of these stab wounds caused the victim's death. It had penetrated through the right femoral vein (a major blood vessel), and would have resulted in uncontrolled and continuous bleeding. The two accused were charged with murder under s 302 read with s 34 of the Penal Code (Cap 224, 1985 Rev Ed).

At trial there were conflicting testimonies from the two accused regarding who had participated in stabbing the victim with the knives. Lim alleged that Ng had stabbed the victim while Koh testified that Ng had not used the knives. It remained unclear whether it had been Lim or Ng who had caused the fatal stab wound.

Held, convicting both accused on the reduced charge of robbery with hurt under s 394 of the Penal Code:

(1) Section 300 (c) of the Penal Code was concerned with “bodily injury”. The proper meaning of “bodily injury” had to relate to the injury resulting from the blow or the strike intended by the accused. It was a forensic affair as to whether the injury present resulted from the blow or strike in question. The injury suffered by the victim,ie the severed right femoral vein, resulted from the stab wound inflicted: at [12].

(2) There was a distinction between the injury caused and the means by which that injury was caused. The relevant “intention” under s 300 (c) related to the injury caused and not the means by which it was caused. The relevant enquiry would be whether such an injury was sufficient in the ordinary course of nature to cause death and whether the accused intended to inflict that injury: at [14].

(3) The Court of Appeal in Tan Chee Hwee v PP [1993] 2 SLR (R) 493 held that since an inquiry under s 300 (c) was subjective, the court had to consider the subjective intention or purpose of the fatal act. The approach set out in that case applied only to special circumstances where the intended action causing the injury was inflicted for a specific non-fatal purpose: at [15].

(4) The stab wound was inflicted to prevent the victim from escaping and no more. The severing of the victim's femoral vein was not intentional but, in the language of Tan Chee Hwee, accidental: at [16].

(5) The common intention of the trio was to threaten, rob and drug their victim. There was no common intention to kill. The gang did not have the common intention to use the knives for injuring the victim, but merely to frighten him. The decision to stab the victim was not formed in concert with all three members of the group. Stabbing the victim was not in furtherance of the common intention to rob. Therefore, the charge of murder was reduced to a charge under s 394 of the Penal Code, for the offence of robbery with hurt, an offence which both accused were independently guilty of: at [18] and [19].

Harjinder Singh Alias Jinda v Delhi Administration [1968] 2 SCR 246 (refd)

Tan Chee Hwee v PP [1993] 2 SLR (R) 493; [1993] 2 SLR 657 (folld)

Virsa Singh v State of PunjabAIR 1958 SC 465 (refd)

Penal Code (Cap 224,1985 Rev Ed)s 300 (c) (consd);ss 34,299, 302,394

Amarjit Singh and Wayne Koh (Deputy Public Prosecutors) for the Prosecution

Ismail Hamid (Ismail Hamid & Co) and Alan Moh (Solomon Richard & Co) for the first accused

Loo Ngan Chor (Loo Ngan Chor & Co) and Julian Tay Wei Loong (Lee & Lee) for the second accused.

Judgment reserved.

Choo Han Teck J

The crime

1 A 56-year-old car trader named Bock Thuan Thong (“Bock”) was found dead in the boot of his brother's car (SBU 6920 X) on 2 April 2004 about 1.30pm. The car was parked at level 6A of the Boon Keng Road multi-storey car park. Bock was pronounced dead by a paramedic, Lee Chun Yuan, from the Singapore Civil Defence Force, at 1.47pm. Two men were charged for Bock's murder. The first accused is Lim Poh Lye (“Lim”), a 45-year-old coffee shop assistant, and the second accused is Tony Koh Zhan Quan (“Koh”), a 37-year-old Taoist priest. Another accomplice, Ng Kim Soon (“Ng”), is still at large. Lim surrendered himself to the police on 5 April 2004 and Koh, who was on the run in Malaysia, surrendered himself on 18 May 2004 to the Royal Malaysian Police and was subsequently brought back to Singapore. The forensic pathologist, Dr Clarence Tan, testified that he performed the autopsy and found various injuries on Bock. There were blunt injuries, namely bruises and lacerations, on his head and face as well as on his hands and legs. Several teeth were also fractured or had broken off in the violent assault on Bock. However, these were not fatal injuries. Dr Tan testified that he found seven stab wounds to the legs. Of these, he was of the view that “Stab Wound No 2”, as he classified it, was the fatal injury because that was the injury in which Bock's femoral vein was cut. Consequently, Bock bled to death. Dr Tan was also of the opinion that an injury of this nature would result in death within 30 minutes. The two accused were charged with murder punishable under s 302 read with s 34 of the Penal Code (Cap 224, 1985 Rev Ed).

The plan

2 The background facts are largely undisputed although the two accused have slightly different perspectives on some minor points that have no bearing on either their defences or the prosecution case. The facts come mostly from the two accused because Ng is still at large, and the only other person in the main story (Bock) is dead. There were various neutral witnesses but they saw only unconnected pieces of the action, that is, they saw parts of the morning's events at different places and times. Nonetheless, some of that evidence is important, and I shall revert to them shortly. The narration of the facts by the accused persons themselves left gaps concerning the idea and planning of the crime, but that does not seem to be material. The plan appears to have been hatched sometime in mid-March of 2004 when Koh went to Ng's home to collect a debt of $3,000 from him. Instead of paying, Ng suggested a plan to rob a second-hand car dealer (Bock), and invited Koh to join in the crime. Koh would be required to be the driver in the robbery, but Ng needed one more person to guard Bock. Koh recommended Lim, and eventually the three met on 31 March 2004 to discuss the details. The simple plan was to lure Bock on 2 April 2004 to some place where he would be abducted and forced to sign cheques up to a sum of $600,000. They would get the first cheque to be made out in the sum of $90,000 or $100,000 as a test, and then the other cheques would be for $150,000 to $200,000. The gang of three would then encash the cheques, drug Bock and leave him in his car while they flee in Koh's car. Ng and Koh planned to leave Singapore, but not Lim. In furtherance of their plan, Ng obtained some diazepam (valium), a sedative, from a medical clinic. Ng suggested that they would use “a small knife” to threaten or coerce Bock. According to Koh, he and Lim made a slight variation to the plan which they did not discuss with Ng, and that was, to pour some strong detergent liquid into Bock's eyes to blind him so that he would not be able to recognise them. It appears that they were afraid of being recognised because Bock did not know either of them. He only knew Ng. The agreement reached among the three, so far as the sharing of the loot was concerned, was that Ng would keep half of what they took, and Koh would share the other half with Lim.

Morning of 2 April 2004

3 Ng and Koh met Lim at a bus stop at Ubi about 10.00am...

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