Public Prosecutor v Saravanan s/o Velasamy

JudgeTerence Chua Seng Leng
Judgment Date13 January 2003
Neutral Citation[2003] SGMC 2
Citation[2003] SGMC 2
CourtMagistrates' Court (Singapore)
Plaintiff CounselJohn Abraham (M/s John Abraham)
Defendant CounselMichael Tay (Police Prosecutor)
Published date02 October 2003

The Appellant faced one charge under Section 294(a) of the Penal Code, which read as follows:

You, Saravanan s/o Velasamy, Male: 29 years old, NRIC: S7346162F are charged that you, on the 24th day of March 2002, at or about 5.15 pm, at the Ang Mo Kio Town Garden East, Singapore, which is a public place, did commit an obscene act, to wit, by masturbating, to the annoyance of one Helmi Bin Mohamed, a Police Officer attached to Ang Mo Kio South NPC and you have thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 294(a) of the Penal Code, Chapter 224.

2. The Appellant claimed trial to the charge. At the end of trial, and upon hearing submissions from the Prosecution and Defence, the Appellant was convicted on the charge.

The Prosecution Case

3. Three witnesses were called for the Prosecution. They were:

PW1 – Cpl Helmi Bin Mohd

PW2 – SI Guok Joong Yin

PW3 – Insp Lawrence Beins

4. All three witnesses gave evidence from the witness stand.

PW1's evidence

5. On 24th March 2002, Cpl Helmi Bin Mohd was detailed to assist his team leader, SI Guok Joong Yin, to do patrol rounds. His duty commenced at 8.00 am that day. At about 5.00 pm, both he and SI Guok were performing foot patrol at Ang Mo Kio Town Garden East. They were both in uniform.

6. According to Cpl Helmi, the purpose of the foot patrol was the look out for "suspicious characters". SI Guok parked their police vehicle at the Neighbourhood Police Centre at Ang Mo Kio Avenue 3 and proceeded up to Town Garden East. Cpl Helmi testified that there had been previous complaints of illegal immigrants and couples doing indecent acts in the said location.

7. The two police officers proceeded to Pavilion No. 2, where they spotted the Appellant lying down on a stone bench. Cpl Helmi provided a sketch plan of the area and also a sketch of the stone bench (Exhibit P2). He stated that he saw the Appellant lying down, bare-bodied with his jacket placed on his crotch. The Appellant was using his left hand to support his head, which his right hand under the jacket. As they moved in closer, Cpl Helmi saw the Appellant's right hand under the jacket moving vigourously in an up and down motion.

8. SI Guok then gave instructions for Cpl Helmi to move to the right while SI Guok went to left in order to have a better view of the Appellant's actions. They observed the Appellant for about 5 minutes, Cpl Helmi being behind the bushes facing the head of the Appellant, about 5 meters away. Cpl Helmi marked his position on Exhibit P2 with a black "X" and SI Guok's general position with a black "O". Both officers were apparently unobserved by the Appellant.

9. Cpl Helmi stated he was able to see the Appellant clearly, and also that he saw a fraction of the Appellant's penis under the jacket and his right hand as well. SI Guok gave a signal to proceed and the two approached the Appellant. The Appellant at this point saw the officers and immediately sat up.

10. Under re-examination, Cpl Helmi went into greater detail about the questioning at the scene. When SI Guok questioned the Appellant as to what he was doing, the Appellant said that he was just sitting down, or resting. He was asked what else he was doing, as his hand had been inside the windbreaker. The Appellant replied that he had just put it there.

11. Cpl Helmi said that they asked the Appellant to place his jacket, which was still on his crotch, on the table. The Appellant initially declined but eventually did as he was asked. Cpl Helmi also stated that on the table was a pouch and next to that was a handphone. It was at this point that Cpl Helmi observed that the Appellant's jeans were unbuttoned and unzipped, with his penis visible and erect. The Appellant explained that he was scratching because "it was itchy".

12. The Appellant was asked for his particulars and identity card and he was co-operative. Cpl Helmi screened the Appellant's identity card. It was then that the Appellant asked to be given a chance as he claimed to be the manager of a company, and did not want to jeopardize his future or be humiliated and disgraced. According to Cpl Helmi, the Appellant also promised not to be seen around the Ang Mo Kio area anymore.

13. SI Guok further questioned him as to what the windbreaker was doing around his waist to which the Appellant apparently replied, "I was not doing anything - I am not masturbating. I am not touching my private parts."

14. It was put to Cpl Helmi during cross-examination, to which he agreed, that SI Guok then said words to the effect of, "I did not say anything about masturbation - why are you talking about masturbating?" The question was put to the Appellant if he indeed was masturbating to which he denied. When it was told to him that the two officers had been observing him for five minutes he remained silent.

15. Following the screening, a search was conducted on the Appellant and his belongings. However, nothing incriminating was found. On instructions from SI Guok, Cpl Helmi placed the Appellant under arrest for performing an indecent act in a public place. The Appellant followed the officers without resistance. He was brought back to the NPC where subsequently SI Guok lodged a police report.

16. Cpl Helmi was instructed to call the duty Investigating Officer to verify the section under which the Appellant was to be charged, which was at the time IO Ang Choon Hing. IO Ang then gave instructions for the Appellant to be arrested under Section 294(a) Cap 224 and for the Appellant's jacket and windbreaker to be seized as there might be evidence of seminal fluid on them. Also at the NPC, the Appellant's handphone rang and he was allowed to speak to give instructions to his workers, whom he had earlier arranged to meet.

17. Under cross examination, Cpl Helmi noted that at the time they spotted the Appellant, he also saw a pair of ladies some distance away taking photographs. It was asked if he also saw an elderly gentleman on the stone benches along the pathway, but Cpl Helmi said he did not. Defence counsel seemed to suggest that the Appellant could not be doing this act with the two ladies in the vicinity but Cpl Helmi stated they were not near, but a distance away, which he estimated during re-examination as about 15 metres.

18. Cpl Helmi was recalled for questions on the log-sheet (Exhbit P3,) after it had been established from SI Guok that such a log-sheet had been used on that day. Cpl Helmi stated that the log-sheet was filled out during the course of the day, during intervals when they would stop by a location, as it was difficult to write neatly while in the vehicle or on the move. When on foot patrol, the log-sheet would be left in the vehicle. In the interim, he would keep notes on a piece of paper attached to his clip file.

19. According to the log-sheet, at 4.22 pm the officers were at Ang Mo Kio Street 43, opposite from Ang Mo Kio Avenue 3. The patrol then proceeded to the NPC at 4.32 pm and had a short break at 4.35 pm, during which Cpl Helmi updated the log-sheet. At 4.45 pm they resumed their patrol, and were on foot beat until about 5.20 pm when they brought the Appellant back to the NPC. He admitted that between these times, the log-sheet was not with him, and he kept notes on the aforementioned piece of paper. He then updated the log-sheet between 5.20 pm and 5.30 pm.

PW2's evidence

20. SI Guok testified that on the day in question at 5.15 pm he was with Cpl Helmi at the Pavilion located the Ang Mo Kio Gardens. As they approached Pavilion 2, they observed the Appellant lying down bare-bodied on the bench. According to SI Guok, he saw the Appellant's right hand covered by the windbreaker (which was at the crotch area) moving in and up and down motion. The Appellant's left hand was "on the stone chairs". SI Guok estimated his distance from the Appellant at about 6 metres.

21. The observation took about 5 minutes, and then the decision was made to move in. SI Guok marked his position and Cpl Helmi's position on a blank copy of Exhibit P2, which was indicated on the Court's copy by the "O" and "X" in red ink.

22. According to SI Guok the two officers were standing behind the bushes for 5 minutes. Then he directed Cpl Helmi to move in from the right while he himself moved in from the left. They moved in simultaneously. When they asked the Appellant to remove the windbreaker he initially refused, but subsequently complied. The windbreaker was then placed on the stone table. There was also a pouch on the table, in which cigarettes were subsequently discovered. There was also a handphone present.

23. SI Guok testified that when the windbreaker was removed, he observed that the Appellant's pants were unzipped and his private parts were erect. He then asked the Appellant, "Why do you masturbate down here?" The Appellant denied that he was masturbating.

24. The Appellant was brought to the Ang Mo Kio South NPC. While there, according to SI Guok, the Appellant admitted to the offence and pleaded for a chance, mentioning that he was the manager of a certain firm and that he had a bright future. Cpl Helmi then lodged the police report (known as the NP299). On completion of the report, the Appellant was sent to "F" Division and handed over to the duty sergeant.

25. According to SI Guok, he prepared the log-sheet in the morning when he arrived at the office, on that day being around 6.30 am. He also said that they try to update the log-sheet instantly, or as soon as possible to avoid delay. When there is an emergency case they would attend to the case first and after returning to the vehicle update the log-sheet as soon as possible. He admitted that there were no entries made in the log-sheet from the time they left the NPC on foot patrol to the time they returned.

26. Under cross-examination, it was suggested that the times reflected in the log-sheet were from memory or discussions with Cpl Helmi and therefore may not be accurate, but SI Guok replied in the negative, saying that they...

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