Public Prosecutor v Siew Boon Loong

JudgeYong Pung How CJ
Judgment Date31 January 2005
Neutral Citation[2005] SGHC 20
Citation[2005] SGHC 20
Defendant CounselN K Rajarh (N K Rajarh)
Published date02 February 2005
Plaintiff CounselRavneet Kaur (Deputy Public Prosecutor)
Date31 January 2005
Docket NumberMagistrate's Appeal No 164 of 2004
CourtHigh Court (Singapore)
Subject MatterAppeals,Whether sufficient weight accorded to deliberate manner in which offences committed,Considerations of court when weighing mitigating factors for purposes of sentencing,Sentencing,Whether sufficient weight accorded to accused's criminal antecedents,Public Prosecutor appealing against sentence imposed on accused for criminal breach of trust,Criminal Procedure and Sentencing,Whether too much weight accorded to accused's early plea of guilt,Considerations of court when weighing aggravating factors for purposes of sentencing,Whether too much weight accorded to accused's voluntary surrender to police

31 January 2005

Yong Pung How CJ:

1 The respondent, Siew Boon Loong, was charged with two counts of criminal breach of trust (“CBT”) punishable under s 406 of the Penal Code (Cap 224, 1985 Rev Ed). At the trial below, he pleaded guilty to both charges. The district judge convicted him of the charges, and sentenced him to six weeks’ imprisonment on each charge, but ordered the sentences to run concurrently. In all, the respondent had to serve a total sentence of six weeks’ imprisonment. The Public Prosecutor appealed against the sentence. I dismissed the appeal, and now set out my reasons.


2 At the material time, the respondent worked as a courier for Victor Sims Services (“VSS”), which DHL Express Pte Ltd (“DHL”) had engaged to provide courier services on its behalf. The victim was one Daniel Koh Guan Hick (“Koh”), an IT manager for Misys International Financial Systems Pte Ltd.

3 On 28 September 2004, Koh engaged the services of DHL at about 2.30pm and later again at about 3.50pm. On each occasion, Koh wanted DHL to courier a parcel containing a laptop valued at $4,700 to Australia. In all, DHL was to courier two parcels, each containing a laptop, to Australia. On both occasions, DHL engaged VSS to perform courier services on its behalf, and in turn, VSS instructed the respondent to collect the parcels. The respondent collected the first parcel at 3.00pm, whereupon he went to the toilet, removed the laptop from the parcel, and hid it behind the toilet bowl. He did the same to the second parcel, which he subsequently collected at 4.00pm. After the respondent reported off from work, he returned to the toilet to retrieve the two laptops. The respondent later handed over the laptops to one Melvin Sim Peng Wei to sell them. The dishonest misappropriation of the laptops formed the basis of the CBT charges.

4 Subsequent to committing CBT, the respondent committed theft-in-dwelling on 3 October 2004, for which he was convicted and sentenced to one month’s imprisonment. Prior to this conviction, no action had been taken against him in respect of the earlier CBT. Almost immediately after being released from imprisonment for the theft-in-dwelling offence, the respondent voluntarily surrendered to the police and owned up to the earlier CBT that he had committed. More than a week after the respondent was released from imprisonment, on 5 November 2004 at about 5.23pm, one Roger Ng Koon San, a field support officer for DHL, lodged a police report after Koh informed him that two laptops were missing from the parcels upon delivery to Australia.

The decision below

5 In light of the respondent’s criminal antecedents, the trial judge duly noted that the respondent was not a first-time offender, and considered this to be an aggravating factor. However, the trial judge was also of the view that there were significant mitigating factors, namely the respondent’s early plea of guilt, his voluntary surrender to the police, and the full co-operation he rendered to the police that eventually led to the recovery of the laptops. In the circumstances, the trial judge felt that a total sentence of six weeks’ imprisonment in respect of both CBT charges would meet the ends of justice.

The appeal

6 The Prosecution contended that the total sentence of six weeks’ imprisonment was manifestly inadequate. Counsel for the respondent conceded that the sentence might be inadequate, but not so manifestly inadequate that I should disturb it. He also argued that there were exceptional mitigating circumstances in this case. In urging for the sentence to be enhanced, the Prosecution advanced several submissions before me, to which I now turn.

The respondent’s criminal antecedents

7 The Prosecution submitted that the trial judge had failed to sufficiently take into account the respondent’s repeated and similar antecedents up to the moment of sentencing. The Prosecution was of the view that the respondent’s antecedents revealed his lack of hesitation to obtain financial gain by dishonest means, as well as a propensity towards committing property offences. As such, the Prosecution felt that the trial judge should have regarded his criminal history as a strong aggravating factor.

8 The respondent had committed various offences against property, both as a juvenile, and as an adult. As a juvenile, he was charged with attempted lurking house-trespass by night, for which he was given a stern warning in lieu of prosecution. Subsequently, he was charged with simple theft, and was consequently placed on probation with a one-year stay at Bukit Batok Hostel. As an adult, he was charged with theft-in-dwelling and was sentenced to one month’s imprisonment as mentioned earlier.


9 In respect of the theft-in-dwelling offence, I noted that this was committed subsequent to, and before any action had been taken against him for, the CBT offences. Nevertheless, the conviction in relation to the theft-in-dwelling offence was a relevant antecedent that could and should be taken into account when considering the sentence for his CBT offences. In PP v Boon Kiah Kin [1993] 3 SLR 639 (“Boon Kiah Kin”), I had stated at 647–648, [37] that:

[A]ll earlier offences of similar nature should be put before a sentencer, regardless of whether the convictions therefor were obtained before or after the commission of the offence for which the defendant is being sentenced.

In Sim Yeow Seng v PP [1995] 3 SLR 44, I had reiterated the same at 47, [8] that:

[A] sentencing court should have regard to all of the accused’s antecedents up to the moment of sentencing because these antecedents reveal his character, his attitudes and the likelihood of rehabilitation. So long as previous convictions are shown to exist, therefore, it does not matter whether they were in respect of offences committed before or subsequent to the offence for which the court is considering sentence.

10 The Prosecution referred me to Lim Poh Tee v PP [2001] 1 SLR 674, where I had stated at [40] that:

[The appellant’s] previous conviction for an unrelated offence of corruption committed in 1998 [after the corruption offence for which the court was considering sentence], revealed his propensity to corrupt means of self-enrichment and correspondingly, a need to deter him from gravitating towards such wrong-doing. Accordingly, the district judge was fully entitled to take his previous conviction into account.

I took a dim view of the appellant in that case, notwithstanding that his previous conviction was in relation to an offence committed subsequent to the offence for which the court was considering sentence. This was because the subsequent offence was in fact of the exact nature as the earlier offence, both being corruption offences punishable under s 6(a) of the Prevention of Corruption Act (Cap 241, 1993 Rev Ed). The present case was quite different. I therefore reverted to Boon Kiah Kin, where I had stated at 648, [37] that:

Where the accused was convicted of the earlier offence only after he committed the offence for which he is being sentenced, then normally he will have a better chance of persuading the court that circumstances relating to those earlier offences show that, in committing the offence for which he is being sentenced, he was not acting in defiant disregard of the law. If the court is persuaded that the element of defiance did not exist then it may certainly reflect its opinion in the sentence imposed, and perhaps in certain circumstances the court may even think fit to sentence the accused as if he were a first time offender.

Admittedly, at first glance, it might be difficult to see, in light of the respondent’s juvenile antecedents, how it could be said that he did not act in defiant disregard of the law when he committed the CBT offences. However, this should become clearer after a closer examination of his juvenile antecedents.

Juvenile antecedents

11 The respondent has two previous convictions for property offences that he had committed before the CBT offences, albeit as a juvenile. By committing the CBT offences after having already been disciplined for committing past property offences, the impression of persistence to commit crime despite chastisement was therefore more obvious and harder to dispel: Boon Kiah Kin at 648, [37]. In this regard, the Prosecution labelled the respondent a “repeat offender” in respect of property offences, though presumably not in the strict sense of that term used when invoking specific enhanced punishment provisions.

12 The fact that the respondent had run afoul of the law when he was still a juvenile (as opposed to an adult) might go some way in dispelling such an impression, though this could not be overstated because the respondent...

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