Public Prosecutor v Wong Hong Ming and Another

CourtMagistrates' Court (Singapore)
JudgeNgoh Siew Yen
Judgment Date12 April 2004
Neutral Citation[2004] SGMC 3
Citation[2004] SGMC 3
Published date28 April 2004
Plaintiff CounselINSP Bernard Pong
Defendant CounselMr Ranjit Singh (Francis, Khoo and Lim)
Subject MatterCriminal Law,Section 20 Miscellaneous Offences (Public Order & Nuisance) Act (Cap 184),Definition of "disorderly behaviour",Whether talking back to police officers in a loud voice accompanied by hand gesticulation will per se amount to disorderly behaviour,Whether laughing loudly and gesticulating with hands will per se amount to disorderly behaviour,Evidence,Impeachment of witness's credit,Weight to be given,Whether impeachment was sufficient to discredit the witness's credit altogether

12 April 2004

Magistrate Ngoh Siew Yen:

The two Accused persons Mr Wong Hong Ming (‘Wong’) and Mr Chean Kiow Chai (‘Chean’) were charged for behaving in a disorderly manner at a police road block along the Pans Island Expressway (‘PIE’) under s 20 of the Miscellaneous Offences (Public Order & Nuisance) Act (Cap 184) (‘the Act’). They were for the greater part of this trial acting in persons. The charge against Wong (‘P1A’) read as:

You, Wong Hong Ming, male 48 years old NRIC S1845537D are charged that you, on the 28th day of November 2002, sometime between 2.55am and 3.20am at a police road block located at PIE Jalan Toa Payoh near Toa Payoh exit, Singapore which is a public place, did behave in a disorderly manner, to wit, by shouting and gesticulating with your hands, and you have thereby committed an offence punishable under s 20 of the Miscellaneous Offences (Public Order & Nuisance) Act (Cap 184).

The charge against Chean (‘P2A’) was substantially similar:

You, Chean Kiow Chai, male 50 years old NRIC S1845565Z are charged that you, on the 28th day of November 2002, sometime between 2.55am and 3.11am at a police road block located at PIE Jalan Toa Payoh near Toa Payoh exit, Singapore which is a public place, did behave in a disorderly manner, to wit by laughing loudly and gesticulating with your hands, and you have thereby committed an offence punishable under s 20 of the Miscellaneous Offences (Public Order & Nuisance) Act (Cap 184).

At the end of the trial, after hearing evidence and submissions, I was not satisfied that the prosecution had made out a case beyond reasonable doubt as against both the Accused persons. Accordingly, I recorded orders of acquittal in their favour. The prosecution has appealed against my decision.

The Prosecution’s Case

2 The prosecution called five witnesses. These five witnesses were police officers who were involved in setting up the road block along the PIE on 28 November 2002.

Testimony of PW1 – Sergeant Khong Farn Wai (‘Sgt Khong’)

3 Sgt Khong was the police officer who arrested Chean on 28 November 2002. In the early hours of 28 November 2002, Sgt Khong and two other patrol cars set up a routine road block along the PIE. Together with Sergeant Toh Soon Lee (‘Sgt Toh’), Sgt Khong was responsible for screening and checking on persons who were stopped. At about 2.55am, a taxi with registration number SH 2481P was stopped and flagged to the side of the road. Sgt Khong and Sgt Toh approached the taxi. Sgt Khong testified that Chean and Wong were in the back seat talking and laughing to one another. He signalled for them to alight from the taxi for about one minute but both passengers ignored him. Sgt Toh eventually opened the passenger door. Directions were again given for Chean and Wong to step out from the taxi. Both men stubbornly refused to alight and continued to laugh and talk loudly amongst themselves for about another more minute.

4 Suddenly, Chean threw his bag out of the taxi and onto the road. He shouted at Sgt Khong and Sgt Toh saying that his identity card was inside the bag and told the police officers to retrieve it themselves. When Chean eventually emerged from the taxi, he continued to laugh very loudly and then almost immediately, laid prone onto the road for a few seconds before getting up by himself. Sgt Khong insisted that none of the police officers had ordered Chean to lie on the road as this was too dangerous.

5 After Chean got up from the ground, he continued to laugh and shout at the police officers. Vulgarities were uttered including the sentence, “I know police sure check one. Fuck.” Chean was also gesturing with his hands and pointing at Sgt Khong. After several warnings, Sgt Khong placed Chean under arrest for disorderly behaviour at 3.11am.

6 During cross–examination by Chean, Sgt Khong agreed that he had used the word “Ai” to attract the attention of the passengers after Sgt Toh had opened the taxi door. He explained that this was because he had used the word “Sir” several times but was ignored. Sgt Khong agreed with Chean that the latter had criticised him for being rude. Sgt Khong also agreed that Chean had handed over his identity card after getting up from the ground. Sgt Khong stated that he arrested Chean as he had disturbed the public peace by shouting and laughing loudly.

7 With respect to Wong, Sgt Khong had little to say. He did not notice what Wong was doing in the taxi but assumed that Wong was talking and laughing with Chean in the backseat during that one minute after the car door was opened. He was also unable to confirm if Wong was shouting or laughing when he alighted from the taxi. Sgt Khong confirmed that he subsequently noticed Wong making a phone call on his handphone.

Testimony of PW2 – Sergeant Toh Soon Lee (‘Sgt Toh’)

8 Sgt Toh’s testimony was largely similar to Sgt Khong’s testimony. Sgt Toh testified that Chean and Wong were shouting and laughing hysterically in the back seat of the taxi. Both ignored his hand signals to alight and he then opened the left passenger door and asked them to alight. According to Sgt Toh, Chean and Wong remained in the taxi “laughing at the top of their voices in a hysterical manner.” About one to two minutes later, Chean threw his bag out of the taxi, shouted the words “if you want to check, you just open up (the bag) and check yourself”, got out of the taxi and almost immediately, laid down laughing on the road. Wong subsequently alighted from the taxi.

9 After getting up from the road, Chean refused to hand over his IC to the police officers. Sgt Toh remembered that Chean was laughing at the top of his voice, flinging and gesturing with his arms and pointing at Sgt Koh. He also remembered that Sgt Koh had given several warnings to Chean to lower his volume and to stop laughing. Instead of complying, Chean retorted that it was not an offence to laugh. Sgt Koh eventually arrested Chean for disorderly behaviour.

10 Sgt Toh also testified that Wong was shouting and laughing very loudly when he was talking to Staff Sergeant Lim Chee Peng. He confirmed that Wong then walked away to the bus stop with his mobile phone. He was followed by Staff Sergeant Lim Chee Peng and Sergeant Tay Kok Peng. After some time, all three of them returned and stood near SH 2481P. Wong, who was standing very near to Staff Sergeant Lim Chee Peng, gesticulated with his hands in the air and challenged the police officers to arrest him by placing both his hands in front of him. Wong was eventually arrested for disorderly behaviour after he failed to lower his volume and to stop gesticulating with his hands. However Sgt Toh was in no way involved in Wong’s arrest.

Testimony of PW3 – Staff Sergeant Toh Bock Wah (‘SSgt Toh’)

11 From 2.20am to 3.11am, SSgt Toh was directing traffic at the road–block. At about 2.55am, he stopped taxi SH 2481P and directed it to the side of the road. After a while, he heard a short burst of laughter from behind him and turned around to look. He only heard the laughter once. As he did not see anyone laughing or shouting, he continued with controlling traffic. SSgt Toh confirmed that at some point in time, SSgt Lim Chee Peng left his post at the road block sign and walked towards SH 2481P.

12 SSgt Toh explained that at about 3.11am, Sgt Khong informed him that he was placing Chean under arrest for behaving in a disorderly manner. He packed up and together with Sgt Khong, conveyed Chean to Tanglin Police Station where he lodged an arrest report (‘P5’). Chean was standing quietly next to Sgt Khong when he went over. There was nothing unusual about Chean’s
behaviour en route to the police station.

Testimony of PW4 – Staff Sergeant Lim Chee Peng (‘SSgt Lim’)

13 SSgt Lim was controlling traffic at the road block sign with SSgt Toh. He heard a commotion arising from SH 2481P and decided to walk over to check what was happening. As he approached SH 2481P which was parked about 6m away from him, he saw Sgt Toh opening the taxi door. Laughter was heard coming from the taxi. SSgt Lim testified that a bag was thrown out of the taxi with the comment, “you want to check the bag, you check it yourself”. He then saw Chean stepping out from the taxi and lying on the road before he was persuaded to get up by Sgt Khong.

14 SSgt Lim narrated that this was then followed by a conversation in which Sgt Khong, Sgt Toh and himself tried to obtain the particulars from both Accused persons. He remembered that Wong was then standing very near to Chean and both of them had demanded to know the provision under which the police were exercising their powers. The Accused persons were also talking and laughing very loudly to one another when they were challenging the police on their rights. SSgt Lim could not remember who eventually obtained the Identity Cards (‘IC’) from Chean and Wong, but he recalled that after the ICs were handed over, Wong followed Sergeant Tay Kok Peng to the bus stop. Upon seeing this, SSgt Lim decided to assist Sergeant Tay and walked after Wong.

15 At the bus–stop, Wong used his handphone to make a call to “C.O. Radio”. The police officers allowed him to make the call. Sergeant Tay subsequently requested for Wong to hand the phone to him and informed the person on the other line to call back later. Wong was then directed by Sergeant Tay to return to the rear of his police vehicle (behind SH 2481P). According to SSgt Lim, instead of proceeding as directed, Wong began walking up and down and around the police vehicles, noting down the registration numbers of the vehicles into a notepad. When he was stopped, Wong informed the police officers that they had no right to restrict his movements since his IC had already been handed over to them. He also questioned the police officers about the legality of Chean’s arrest. SSgt Lim was able to recall Wong’s exact words, “Why the fuck did you arrest Chean and under which section of the law are you empowered to arrest Chean?” Wong spoke in a very...

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