Public Prosecutor v Ng Shao Shao Justine

CourtDistrict Court (Singapore)
JudgeBrenda Tan
Judgment Date22 January 2001
Neutral Citation[2001] SGDC 21
Citation[2001] SGDC 21
Published date19 September 2003


Grounds of Decision

The accused claimed trial to an amended charge of attempted theft under section 379 read with section 511 of the Penal Code. At the end of the 1-day trial, I acquitted him of the charge. The prosecution being dissatisfied with my decision has appealed against the acquittal.

The Charge

2. I set out below the amended charge that the accused faced.

DAC 22163/2000 Exhibit P1


Ng Shao Siang Justine, Male/26 years old

NRIC No: S 7323565J

are charged that you, on the 10th day of June 2000 at about 6.30 pm, at Paris Ris West Plaza, Singapore, did attempt to commit theft of one Nokia 3210 Handphone valued at more than $300/-, in the possession of one Yeo Swee Lan and you have thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 379 read with Section 511 of the Penal Code, Chapter 224.

The Prosecutions Case

3. The prosecutions case was that on 10 June 2000 at about 6.30 pm at Pasir Ris West Plaza, the accused attempted to steal a handphone belonging to one Yeo Swee Lan (PW1). It was not disputed that the accused came into possession of PW1s handphone. The main contention of the defence was that the accused did not have the intention to attempt to commit theft.

4. The prosecution called a total of 3 witnesses to prove its case. The material evidence as adduced from the witnesses was as follows. PW1 testified that she was a real estate agent with ERA Properties ("ERA"). On 10 June 2000, she was on duty at an exhibition held by ERA at Pasir Ris West Plaza. Some panels were put up at the exhibition and the exhibition staff occupied a table that was located near the panels. The panels and table could be seen in the photographs marked P2 and P3.

5. Sometime between 5 to 6 pm, one Muhabob Hussin Bin Anip (PW2), who was a cleaner supervisor at the Plaza, approached PW1 with some queries relating to the real estate industry. They stood about 15 feet away from the table as they engaged in their conversation. In relation to exhibit P2, they were standing at a spot on the right which was outside the photograph. PW1 had her back towards the table while PW2 was facing the table. At that time, PW1 was the only staff who was present at the site.

6. In the midst of their discussion, PW2 alerted PW1 that there was someone standing next to the table and he asked PW1 if the man was her colleague. When PW1 turned around, she saw the accused whose back was facing her standing next to the table at the position marked "A" in exhibit P2. PW1 had attached her handphone which was a Nokia 3210 on to a clipboard which she had left on the table. She had also clipped some name cards on the clipboard and they were wedged below the handphone.

7. As PW1 walked towards the table, she saw that the accused was holding the clipboard in his left hand in a vertical position. At the same time, PW1 saw that the accused had lifted her handphone from the clipboard and was holding it in his right hand. As PW1 had fastened her handphone to the clipboard in an unusual manner, despite the accuseds action, her handphone remained attached to the clipboard. Her name cards, however, became dislodged as a result and they were scattered on to the floor and chair.

8. PW1 approached the accused and asked him what he was doing. The accused appeared frightened and said "Nothing, nothing. I thought you were selling candles here." PW1 questioned the accused as to whether her clipboard or handphone resembled a candle or if it looked as if she was selling candles there. She also wanted to know why the accused was taking her handphone. She told him that these were her personal belongings and he should not be holding on to them. The accused asked her not to misunderstand him and said that he had a handphone too so there was no reason for him to take hers. The exchange between the accused and PW1 continued and 2 security guards who noticed the commotion approached them. One of them then called the police.

9. PW1 told the court that after the police had been summoned, the accused tried to leave the scene but the security guards prevented him from doing so. Subsequently the police arrived and brought the accused to the security office for questioning.

10. PW2 confirmed that he was talking to PW1 when he saw the accused standing at the table. He asked PW1 if the accused was her friend. PW2 remained where he was when PW1 walked towards the accused. He saw some papers falling to the floor but he did not see what the accused was doing at the table or where he came from. PW2 then left the scene and did not know what happened.

11. Sgt Mohammed Ghazali Bin Sheik Ismail (PW3) was the arresting officer. He said that he arrived at the scene at 7.19 pm. He ascertained that Azman Bin Ibad (DW2) was the security officer who called the police. He also interviewed PW1 and 2 and the accused. Subsequently he placed the accused under arrest for attempted theft of the handphone.

Submission Of No Case To Answer

12. At the close of the prosecutions case, the defence submitted that it had no case to answer. It argued that the evidence only showed that the accused was holding the clipboard and handphone. There was no evidence that he removed the handphone nor was there any evidence that he had any dishonest intention to steal the handphone. The prosecution on the other hand, submitted that it was timely that PW2 spotted the accused at the table before the accused could make away with the handphone. It also submitted that the fact that the accused took something that did not belong to him showed that he had the dishonest intention to steal.

13. It was true that the accused had no reason to hold the clipboard and handphone which did not belong him. I was therefore satisfied that there was a prima facie case against the accused and accordingly I administered the standard allocution to him and called upon him to enter his defence.

The Defence

14. The accused elected to give evidence. He testified that he went to Pasir Ris West Plaza at about 6 pm on 10 June 2000 to present a gift to a friend who was operating a chicken rice stall there. The accused used to work part time for this friend and 12 June was his friends birthday. His friend was however, not at the stall and the workers informed the accused that his friend would be back in an hour or two.

15. While waiting for his friend to return, the accused decided that he would shop for some essential oil candles and a birthday card in the meantime. He had seen some essential oil candles on display in an open space some days ago. So he proceeded to that location. When he reached the place, instead of finding the candle booth, he saw that there was an ERA exhibition going on. Since he had the time, he looked around at the exhibition and he came to the table in question. The accused thought that he might be able to find some pamphlets or brochures on the table. It so happened that he saw the clipboard on the table and as he was curious to know what was on the clipboard, he lifted it slightly. To his surprise, the handphone that was placed on the clipboard did not fall off. The accused decided to have a closer look. So he lifted the clipboard up with his left hand and used his right hand to hold the handphone. In doing that, he caused some cards to fall off from the clipboard.

16. The accused was intending to pick up the cards when PW1 approached him and asked him what he was doing. In the same breath, she said that she had lost two or three handphones already and started to accuse the accused of trying to steal her...

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