Public Prosecutor v Mohammad Zam bin Abdul Rashid

JudgeTay Yong Kwang J
Judgment Date21 September 2006
Neutral Citation[2006] SGHC 168
CourtHigh Court (Singapore)
Published date21 September 2006
Plaintiff CounselImran Abdul Hamid and Muhamad Imaduddien (Deputy Public Prosecutors)
Defendant CounselAndy Yeo, Lim Dao Kai and Jesslyn Chia (Allen & Gledhill)
Subject MatterCriminal Procedure and Sentencing,Sentencing,Culpable homicide not amounting to murder,Whether accused should be sentenced to a term of life imprisonment or imprisonment up to 10 years
Citation[2006] SGHC 168

21 September 2006

Tay Yong Kwang J:

The facts

1 The accused is now 45 years old. He pleaded guilty to the following charge of culpable homicide under s 304(a) of the Penal Code (Cap 224, 1985 Rev Ed):

That you, MOHAMMAD ZAM BIN ABDUL RASHID, on the 2nd day of December 2005, at about 1.37a.m., at Block 1 Dover Road #05-314, Singapore, did cause the death of one Ramona Binte Johari, female, then 37 years old, when you used your hands, an alarm clock, a standing fan, an ironing board and others, to assault her, in particular, to her face and head areas, which acts which caused her death were done with the intention of causing such bodily injury as is likely to cause death, and you have thereby committed an offence of culpable homicide not amounting to murder punishable under section 304(a) of the Penal Code, Chapter 224.

The punishment provided by s 304(a) of the Penal Code is life imprisonment or imprisonment for up to ten years. In addition, the accused may also be fined or caned. I sentenced him to life imprisonment but did not order caning.

2 Before the incident set out in the charge, the accused was a caretaker in a condominium. He was educated up to primary six level. The flat at Dover Road (“the flat”) is a two-bedroom Housing and Development Board flat. At the material time, the accused resided therein with his wife (the lady victim mentioned in the charge) (“the deceased”), her 13-year-old nephew and the accused’s younger brother, a divorcee, who had been granted permission by the deceased to live in the flat. The deceased was a production operator. The flat belonged to her. The accused and the deceased were married for some eight years. They were childless. Before marrying the deceased, the accused was previously married and he has a teenage son from that earlier marriage. However, he did not maintain contact with his son.

3 The accused has a twin brother (“Ramziz”). Ramziz said in a conditioned statement made in June 2006 that there were altogether seven siblings in the family, of whom the accused and he were the fourth and fifth eldest. He said that most of the siblings were estranged from the accused. Their parents passed away a few years ago.

4 On 1 December 2005, the deceased returned to the flat and prepared dinner. After dinner, she, her nephew and the accused’s younger brother watched television. Later, the two males went to sleep, leaving the deceased watching television alone. The nephew occupied the bedroom next to the corridor while the accused’s younger brother slept in the kitchen area.

5 At about 1.00am on 2 December 2005, the nephew was roused from his sleep by someone shouting very loudly in the corridor outside the flat. He climbed onto the upper deck of the double-decker bed that he was sleeping on and saw the accused picking up shoe boxes and throwing them downstairs. The accused then entered the flat and walked past the nephew’s bedroom into his and the deceased’s bedroom. He shouted vulgarities at the deceased who cried. The nephew went out of his bedroom to see what was happening. He saw the deceased seated on the floor next to her bed with the accused standing near her, slapping and punching her face. The accused then picked up an alarm clock, weighing some 200g from the dressing table and threw it forcefully at the deceased’s face. Blood appeared on her face upon impact. The accused continued to punch her face while she begged him to stop.

6 The accused next picked up a floor fan, weighing some 8.5kg, pulled the plug out of the socket and, using both hands, lifted it over his head and threw it at the deceased’s face while she was still seated on the floor. The deceased bolted out of the bedroom into the bathroom in the kitchen and locked the bathroom door. The accused followed and kicked the bathroom door open. He then grabbed her by her hair and pulled her out. As he pulled her back towards their bedroom, the deceased’s body hit the door of the kitchen cabinet, causing it to be dislodged. When he released his hold on her hair, she ran back into their bedroom. The accused pursued her and resumed punching and slapping her head and face, while shouting vulgarities at her. She begged him again to stop the assault. She then managed to run out of the bedroom into the living room and sat down on a sofa. The accused’s younger brother had left the flat by then.

7 The accused went after the deceased again. He held onto the nape of her neck and smashed her head down onto the wooden armrest of the sofa. He then went into the nephew’s bedroom, picked up an ironing board weighing about 4.5kg and, holding it with both hands, used it to hit the deceased on the head. He then grabbed hold of one of the deceased’s hands and dragged her back into their bedroom. The deceased did not appear to be able to stand up.

8 The nephew witnessed the assault on the deceased but did not dare to intervene as he was afraid of the accused. Both the nephew and the accused’s younger brother had been warned before not to interfere in the accused’s domestic disputes. Some time later, the accused entered the nephew’s bedroom and asked him to go over to the other bedroom to help carry the deceased onto the bed. The deceased was slumped on the floor, leaning on the side of the bed. She looked weak and had a lot of blood on her face. The nephew called out to her but she did not respond. He then helped the accused lift her from the floor onto the bed and used some tissue paper to wipe some of the blood from her face. The accused stood by and watched. The accused then told the nephew to return to his own bedroom and asked him not to respond should anyone go to the flat later as a result of the commotion therein.

9 Subsequently, at about 1.39am, the nephew heard someone knocking on the main door of the flat and on the window panes of his bedroom. They were two uniformed police officers who were responding to a call from someone about a dispute going on in the flat. The inside of the flat was then unlit. After knocking for some time, the police officers went back to the ground floor to see if there was light in the kitchen at the back of the flat. The accused went into the nephew’s bedroom and told him to get up. When they stepped out of the flat later, the two police officers had already gone down to the ground floor. The accused looked over the parapet wall, called out and waved to them.

10 When the two police officers went back up to the flat, they saw the accused clad only in a pair of shorts with blood stains of the upper half of his body. His breath smelled of alcohol but he was behaving and conversing normally. When they asked him what had happened, the accused replied that it was a small matter between husband and wife and that he had slapped and punched his wife as he had seen her “behaving very closely with another man whilst she was at work” (statement of facts at para 9). He also alleged that the deceased had been drinking.

11 One of the police officers stepped into the accused’s bedroom and saw the deceased lying supine on the bed with both arms and legs spread apart and with a lot of blood around her mouth. Her eyes were closed and her breathing was laboured. He called for an ambulance which arrived at about 2.14am.

12 The ambulance officer noted massive amounts of dried blood at the deceased’s mouth and found several pieces of her teeth beside her. There were multiple bruises on her face, especially at her eyes. There was a large bruise over the left parietal region of her head resulting in what appeared to be a deformity in her head. She had to be taken to a hospital immediately. However, as the paramedics were carrying the deceased out of the bedroom, the accused shouted in Malay and pushed his way towards them. The police officers warned him not to obstruct the paramedics in their work but the accused refused to heed the warning. He was therefore restrained with handcuffs. After the ambulance had left with the deceased, investigating officers arrived at the flat and interviewed the accused. They found seven of the deceased’s teeth, covered with her blood, at various locations in the flat.

13 At the National University Hospital, the deceased was found to be bleeding from the gums and had several loose teeth. A computed tomography (CT) scan revealed that the deceased had acute right subdural haematoma and required emergency craniectomy to evacuate the haematoma. During the surgery, a large piece of her skull had to be removed to allow the surgeons access to the brain. Some of the bleeding was stopped but the prognosis was poor. The deceased was administered propofol to rouse her from the coma and morphine to ameliorate the pain.

14 On 4 December 2005, the deceased succumbed to her injuries and passed away without regaining consciousness. The next day, an autopsy was performed on her. Several of her ribs were found to have been fractured. The certified cause of death was bronchopneumonia following acute subdural haemorrhage. The injury was sufficient in the ordinary course of nature to cause death.

15 Dr Stephen Phang, a consultant forensic psychiatrist at the Institute of Mental Health, examined the accused and found him to be suffering from Frontal Lobe Syndrome (“FLS”), an organic personality disorder, which had substantially impaired his mental responsibility for the acts that caused the death of the deceased. FLS is characterised by a significant alteration of the accused’s habitual patterns of behaviour before his head injury, involving the expression of emotions, needs and impulses. The principal manifestation of FLS in the accused was emotional lability (uncontrolled and unstable expression of emotions), with associated irritability and outbursts of anger. He also exhibited inappropriate or disinhibited expression of needs without (or at least with significantly diminished) consideration of consequences or of social conventions. His previous conviction for outrage of modesty was a...

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5 cases
  • Public Prosecutor v Sutherson, Sujay Solomon
    • Singapore
    • High Court (Singapore)
    • 6 November 2015
    ...“impaired your thinking”? Q: Do you agree or disagree, Mr Sujay? A: Disagree. In Public Prosecutor v Mohammad Zam bin Abdul Rashid [2006] SGHC 168 (“Mohammad Zam”), the offender, pleaded guilty to a charge of culpable homicide not amounting to murder. He suffered from Frontal Lobe Syndrome ......
  • Mohammad Zam bin Abdul Rashid v Public Prosecutor
    • Singapore
    • Court of Appeal (Singapore)
    • 23 February 2007
    ...of the appeal. The reason for this application arose from the mental condition of the appellant and the judge’s grounds of decision (see [2006] SGHC 168) in respect of the sentence imposed. We shall first set out the circumstances of the offence and the mitigation speech made on the appella......
  • Public Prosecutor v Sarle Steepan s/o Kolundu
    • Singapore
    • High Court (Singapore)
    • 15 September 2009
    ...unstable mental condition and was not a potential danger to people around him, unlike the accused in PP v Mohammad Zam bin Abdul Rashid [2006] SGHC 168 who was sentenced to undergo life The decision of the court 30 The accused has a drug history going back to 1990. In his mitigation plea, h......
  • Public Prosecutor v Sarle Steepan s/o Kolundu
    • Singapore
    • High Court (Singapore)
    • 15 September 2009
    ...unstable mental condition and was not a potential danger to people around him, unlike the accused in PP v Mohammad Zam bin Abdul Rashid [2006] SGHC 168 who was sentenced to undergo life The decision of the court 30 The accused has a drug history going back to 1990. In his mitigation plea, h......
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