Public Prosecutor v Teo Heng Chye

JudgePunch Coomaraswamy J
Judgment Date15 June 1989
Neutral Citation[1989] SGHC 56
Citation[1989] SGHC 56
Defendant CounselM Puvanendram and Pavan Kumar (Isaac & Puva)
Published date19 September 2003
Plaintiff CounselIsmail Hamid (Deputy Public Prosecutor)
Date15 June 1989
Docket NumberCriminal Case No 23 of 1986
CourtHigh Court (Singapore)
Subject MatterWhether sentences appropriate,Criminal Procedure and Sentencing,Accused intoxicated,Culpable homicide not amounting to murder,Sentencing,Factors to be considered in sentencing

Teo Heng Chye, the accused, faced two charges before us. They were that he on or about 22 March 1985 at about 12.49am at Plaza Bowl, Textile Centre, 200 Jalan Sultan, Singapore:

(1) did commit murder by causing the death of one Lim Nam Hoe and he had thereby committed an offence punishable under s 302 of the Penal Code (Cap 103, 1970 Ed) and,

(2) did commit murder by causing the death of one Koh Tong Kwee and he had thereby committed an offence punishable under s 302 of the Penal Code (Cap 103).

At the end of the prosecution`s case, we were of the view that the evidence led by the prosecution justified our calling upon the accused for his defence.
We accordingly did so and he gave evidence but did not call any witnesses. After hearing his evidence and the submissions of his counsel and that of the deputy public prosecutor, we found him guilty of the lesser offence of culpable homicide under s 304(b) on each of the two charges of murder on which he was before us. After having heard his counsel`s plea of mitigation, we sentenced him to eight years` imprisonment on the first charge involving Lim and to six years` imprisonment on the second charge involving Koh. We also ordered the two sentences to run consecutively commencing from the date of his arrest, 22 March 1985. He now appeals against the sentences on the ground that they are manifestly excessive.

The evidence adduced before us showed that the charges arose out of events in the concourse of the Plaza Bowl shortly before 1am on the morning of 22 March 1985.
The Plaza Bowl is a bowling alley in a building complex called the Textile Centre in Jalan Sultan, Singapore. A level above the Plaza Bowl and with easy access to and from it is an establishment called the Second Home Restaurant and Cocktail Lounge (the lounge), primarily a bar and nightclub.

On the evening of 21 March 1985, the accused had been drinking with some friends in the lounge.
There was a confrontation between the accused and his friends on the one hand and another group of five customers at another table at the lounge on the other. A girlfriend of the accused, Miss Poh Peng Hoi, nicknamed `Siow Huay`, was with him. Among the events that took place between this group and the accused was an attempt by the group to turn the accused`s table over. A question was addressed by Koh (the second deceased who was nicknamed Ah Kwee) to the accused. The question was in Hokkien and a literal translation is, `Are you heavy enough?` In the jargon of frequenters of the lounge and perhaps other similar establishments, this question is virtually a challenge to a fight. Richard Sim (Sim), shareholder in the lounge, and a manager assisting him did their best to calm down the parties. According to Sim, Koh responded to Sim`s efforts, listened to him and calmed down.

There was also evidence that one person from each group later shook hands with the other.
As a result of this confrontation, the accused asked Siow Huay to go and look for a friend of his called Richard Lee (Lee). Sim described Lee and the accused as close friends. Lee frequented the Plaza Bowl and lived in a room in a flat on the 18th level of the Textile Centre. The accused said he sent Siow Huay to summon Lee because some people were rushing towards him. The evidence also is that he asked Siow Huay to get into his car which she had earlier parked on the road beside the Textile Centre and to wait for him. According to her, the accused had told her that on locating Lee, she was to tell him he was upstairs, (ie in the lounge), that he had a `problem` there and to ask Lee to go up to the lounge. She met Lee in the bowling alley where he was at the tail end of a bowling game. She gave Lee the accused`s message, telling him he had a problem in the lounge and that he wanted Lee to go upstairs. Lee wanted to finish the bowling game he was playing before he went up. She then went to the accused`s car, drove it, did a U-turn and parked it on the far side of the road from the Textile Centre so that it faced North Bridge Road. This meant it could head towards North Bridge Road without having to make any turn. She remained waiting in the driver`s seat.

Whilst Sim and his manager were in the process of calming down the two groups, Lee, according to Sim, whom we believed, came up to the lounge.
(The accused, however, said he went down and met Lee in the bowling alley concourse.) He stood beside the accused. Sim saw Lee whispering something to the accused but was unable to hear what was said. The accused and Lee then left the lounge. According to the accused, he told Lee that a group of people wanted to beat him up and the two of them went up to Lee`s flat, he going, according to him, because Lee told him, `Follow me.` In Lee`s flat, to which he had been a number of times before, Lee gave him an object which Lee got from a bathroom. The accused claimed not to know what it was but described it to us as an object with a wooden handle and with a sharp point at the other end. In fact, it was a bearing scraper. He described the object as similar to the exhibit tendered by the prosecution as the weapon used to inflict injuries on Lim and Koh. This bearing scraper was in fact handed over to the police by the accused.

The accused and Lee came down in the lift and went towards the concourse of the bowling alley.
In the meantime, Sim had continued pacifying Koh and his friends and advising them that it was best they left the place. They accepted his advice and on the way out, Koh in fact shook hands with Danny Tan, who earlier had been in the accused`s company at his table in the lounge. Sim followed Koh and his four friends, one of whom was Lim. Another friend of Koh`s, Goh Meng Hua (nicknamed Ah Meng) was still unruly and Sim was trying to pacify him when they were in the concourse of the bowling alley on their way out. It was at this point that Sim saw the accused coming up the staircase towards the concourse of the bowling alley. Anticipating a further problem, Sim opened the door and rushed towards the accused. He told him, `Everything has already been settled. Why are you here?` Unfortunately, Sim tripped and fell down the staircase, losing his glasses in the course of doing so. Whilst on the floor, he heard the footsteps of more than one person going up the staircase towards the bowling alley. He recovered himself and entered the concourse. He heard the accused say in Hokkien words to the effect of, `You want to know how heavy I am`. This is jargon for `you can have a try`. This was addressed to Lim, Koh and his three friends.

Ah Meng was still unruly and Sim made a further effort to pacify him.
Things happened very fast after this with people running around and next, Sim saw Koh going towards the accused, wanting to land a punch on him. When he turned round from pacifying Ah Meng, Koh was on the verge of collapsing and soon after that, Lim also collapsed. There was then in Sim`s graphic words, `A sudden pause, silence, sudden silence. Everything was somewhat like a standstill and when I looked at the accused, he was standing there holding something in his hand`. Giving evidence on this point, Sim raised his right hand to his shoulder to show the level at which the accused`s hand was. It was also gripping something. Sim identified the object as something like the bearing scraper tendered in evidence. In the course of the melee, the two deceased were severely injured. The evidence is that Lee had no weapon which could inflict the injuries of the type found on the deceased. Further, the serious injuries on each were in the unchallenged opinion of Dr Wee Keng Poh, forensic pathologist of the Singapore General Hospital, consistent with those caused by the...

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