Public Prosecutor v NF

Judgment Date21 September 2006
Date21 September 2006
Docket NumberCriminal Case No 22 of 2006
CourtHigh Court (Singapore)
Public Prosecutor

[2006] SGHC 165

V K Rajah J

Criminal Case No 22 of 2006

High Court

Criminal Procedure and Sentencing–Mitigation–Accused charged with raping daughter–Accused pleading guilty to rape charge–Accused sole breadwinner of family and arguing that long-term imprisonment would cause substantial hardship to family–Weight to be attached to such circumstances in sentencing accused–Criminal Procedure and Sentencing–Mitigation–Plea of guilt–Whether true remorse present–Relevance of willingness to facilitate the course of justice–Discount to be applied–Criminal Procedure and Sentencing–Sentencing–Accused charged with raping daughter–Accused pleading guilty to rape charge–Relevance of prior convictions–Whether prior unrelated criminal antecedents to be considered in sentencing–Criminal Procedure and Sentencing–Sentencing–Benchmark sentences–Accused charged with raping daughter–Accused pleading guilty to rape charge–Relevant sentencing considerations–Criminal Procedure and Sentencing–Sentencing–Principles–Accused charged with raping daughter–Accused pleading guilty to rape charge–Importance of deterrence as consideration in sentencing for sexual offences

The accused, upon returning home after having just consumed some beer, was aroused on seeing his daughter (“B”) asleep on her bed and proceeded to rape her. Some three months after the incident, B's teacher found out about the incident and reported the matter to the police. The accused then surrendered himself at the Serious Sexual Crimes Branch of the Criminal Investigation Department. Subsequently, the accused was charged with and pleaded guilty to an offence of rape punishable under s 376 (1) of the Penal Code (Cap 224, 1985 Rev Ed) (“the Code”). In mitigation, the defence raised the following points: (a) the accused had pleaded guilty to the charge; and (b) there would be hardship caused to the accused's immediate and extended family by a long term of imprisonment as the accused was the sole breadwinner of the family.

Held, sentencing the accused to 15 years' imprisonment and 15 strokes of the cane:

(1) The four broad categories of rape designed and calibrated to ensure both stability and a measure of predictability in sentencing rape offenders by assigning a benchmark sentence to each category were: (a) at the lowest end of the spectrum, rapes that featured no aggravating or mitigating circumstances (“category 1 rapes”); (b) rapes where there had been exploitation of a particularly vulnerable victim (“category 2 rapes”); (c) cases in which there was a campaign of rape against multiple victims (“category 3 rapes”); and (d) cases where the offender “ha [d] manifested perverted or psychopathic tendencies or gross personality disorder, and where he [wa]s likely, if at large, to remain a danger to women for an indefinite time” (“category 4 rapes”): at [19] to [21].

(2) The benchmark sentence for category 1 rapes was ten years' imprisonment and not less than six strokes of the cane. The appropriate starting point for category 2 rapes was 15 years' imprisonment and 12 strokes of the cane. In category 3 rapes, the Prosecution would, in most cases, proceed with multiple charges against the accused, and the sentencing judge would have the option to exercise his discretion to order more than one sentence to run consecutively in order to reflect the magnitude of the offender's culpability and, therefore, there was no overriding need for judges to commence sentencing at a higher benchmark than that applied to category 2 rapes. For category 4 rapes, where the circumstances so dictated, it was not inappropriate to sentence the offender to the maximum sentence of 20 years' imprisonment and 24 strokes of the cane allowed under s 376 of the Code: at [24], [36] to [38].

(3) The sentencing principle of general deterrence had to figure prominently and be unmistakably reflected in the sentencing equation to send an unequivocal and uncompromising message to all would-be sex offenders that abusing a relationship or a position of authority in order to gratify sexual impulse would inevitably be met with the harshest penal consequences: at [42].

(4) It was axiomatic that the immediate as well as future impact of a crime on a victim was a relevant factor in the sentencing equation. However, before a court considered the impact of a crime on a victim, it was necessary and crucial that there be a firm evidential basis for the determination of the extent of the damage that the crime had had on the victim. When such evidence was available the court had to carefully assess the harm that had befallen the victim in arriving at a sentence that fairly and accurately represented the gravity of the offence: at [52] and [53].

(5) A plea of guilt did not ipso facto entitle an offender to a discount in his sentence. Whether an early plea of guilt was given any mitigating value depended on whether it was indicative of genuine remorse and a holistic overview of the continuum of relevant circumstances. A court had to carefully examine the conduct of the offender after the commission of the offence in order to determine whether the offender was genuinely contrite: at [57].

(6) It was almost inevitable that whenever the breadwinner of the family had committed an offence and was sentenced to a lengthy term of imprisonment, his family was made to bear and suffer the brunt of his folly. However, little if any weight could be attached to the fact that the family would suffer if the accused was imprisoned for a substantial period of time. Particularly in a case where an accused had committed an offence against a family member, it did not lie in his mouth to exploit the sympathy that naturally arose for his family for his own personal benefit in seeking a reduction of his sentence: at [60] and [61].

(7) In assessing whether specific deterrence was a necessary consideration in sentencing the particular offender, a court might take into account the circumstances of the offence, the personal circumstances of the offender and the criminal record of the offender: at [63].

(8) It would be inappropriate to mechanically enhance the sentence of an offender simply by virtue of the fact that he had a criminal record. One's criminal record was relevant to the extent that a sentencing judge might draw certain inferences about the accused's character, attitude and likelihood of rehabilitation. Therefore, a court was not compelled to assign any weight to an offender's previous convictions if they did not constitute a reasonable basis on which to infer that an offender might re-offend. This general approach was, needless to say, subject to any statutory provision prescribing an enhanced sentence for a repeat offender: at [66] and [68].

(9) One instructive and entirely logical yardstick that the courts had adopted in determining what, if any, weight should be assigned to a previous conviction came in the form of an enquiry as to whether the previous offence (s) bore any similarity to the offence under consideration. It would also be relevant to take into account the interval between the most recent conviction and the current conviction: at [69] and [70].

[Observation: While benchmark sentences served to provide stability and predictability in sentencing practices, they were not to be applied mechanically, without a proper and assiduous examination and understanding of the factual matrix of the case: at [43].]

Ang Jwee Herng v PP [2001] 1 SLR (R) 720; [2001] 2 SLR 474 (folld)

Angliss Singapore Pte Ltd v PP [2006] 4 SLR (R) 653; [2006] 4 SLR 653 (folld)

Attorney-General's Reference (No 1 of 1989) [1989] 1 WLR 1117 (folld)

Chia Kim Heng Frederick v PP [1992] 1 SLR (R) 63; [1992] 1 SLR 361 (folld)

Dinesh Singh Bhatia s/o Amarjeet Singh v PP [2005] 3 SLR (R) 1; [2005] 3 SLR 1 (folld)

Lai Oei Mui Jenny v PP [1993] 2 SLR (R) 406; [1993] 3 SLR 305 (folld)

Leong Mun Kwai v PP [1996] 1 SLR (R) 719; [1996] 2 SLR 338 (distd)

MU v PP Criminal Appeal No 9 of 1999 (refd)

PP v ABF [1999] SGHC 128 (refd)

PP v Aguilar Guen Garlejo [2006] 3 SLR (R) 247; [2006] 3 SLR 247 (folld)

PP v B [1999] 3 SLR (R) 227; [1999] 4 SLR 257 (refd)

PP v Boon Kiah Kin [1993] 2 SLR (R) 26; [1993] 3 SLR 639 (folld)

PP v Chee Cheong Hin Constance [2006] 2 SLR (R) 707; [2006] 2 SLR 707 (refd)

PP v MU [1999] SGHC 107 (refd)

PP v MV [2002] SGHC 161 (refd)

PP v MW [2002] 2 SLR (R) 432; [2002] 4 SLR 912 (folld)

PP v MX [2006] 2 SLR (R) 786; [2006] 2 SLR 786 (refd)

PP v Ng Bee Ling Lana [1992] 1 SLR (R) 448; [1992] 1 SLR 635 (folld)

PP v Peh Thian Hui [2002] 2 SLR (R) 41; [2002] 3 SLR 268 (refd)

PP v Perumal s/o Suppiah [2000] 2 SLR (R) 145; [2000] 3 SLR 308 (folld)

PP v Siew Boon Loong [2005] 1 SLR (R) 611; [2005] 1 SLR 611 (folld)

PP v Soh Lip Yong [1999] 3 SLR (R) 364; [1999] 4 SLR 281 (folld)

PP v Tan Fook Sum [1999] 1 SLR (R) 1022; [1999] 2 SLR 523 (folld)

R v Anthony Hobstaff (1993) 14 Cr App R (S) 605 (refd)

R v Boyd [1975] VR 168 (folld)

R v David N [2001] EWCA Crim 792 (refd)

R v Keith Billam (1986) 8 Cr App R (S) 48 (folld)

R v Kenneth John Ball (1951) 35 Cr App R 164 (folld)

R v Nottingham Crown Court, Ex parte Director of Public Prosecutions [1996] 1 Cr App R (S) 283 (folld)

R v Peter O's (1993) 14 Cr App R (S) 632 (refd)

R v William Christopher Millberry [2003] 2 Cr App R (S) 31 (folld)

Sim Yeow Seng v PP [1995] 2 SLR (R) 466; [1995] 3 SLR 44 (folld)

Tan Kay Beng v PP [2006] 4 SLR (R) 10; [2006] 4 SLR 10 (folld)

V Murugesan v PP [2006] 1 SLR (R) 388; [2006] 1 SLR 388 (refd)

Veen v The Queen (No 2) 164 CLR 465 (refd)

Wong Sin Yee v PP [2001] 2 SLR (R) 63; [2001] 3 SLR 197 (refd)

Penal Code (Cap 224, 1985 Rev Ed) ss 376, 376B (consd)

Registration of Criminals Act (Cap 268, 1985 Rev Ed) s 7E (2) (c)

Imran Hamid and Ong Luan Tze (Deputy Public Prosecutors) for the Prosecution

The accused in person.

V K...

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