Seow Puay Seng v Public Prosecutor

JudgeChan Sek Keong JC
Judgment Date15 February 1988
Neutral Citation[1988] SGHC 16
Docket NumberMagistrate's Appeal No 365 of 1987
Date15 February 1988
Published date19 September 2003
Plaintiff CounselAmarjit Singh (Amarjit Rubin & Partners)
Citation[1988] SGHC 16
Defendant CounselJasvender Kaur (Deputy Public Prosecutor)
CourtHigh Court (Singapore)
Subject MatterMaximum default sentence under s 224(c)(iii)(C) of Criminal Procedure Code,Criminal Procedure and Sentencing,Principle of proportionality,Sentencing,ss 224(b)(iv) 224 (c)(iii)(B) & 224(c)(iii)(C) Criminal Procedure Code (Cap 68),Whether imprisonment in default of payment of fines excessive and/or wrong in law,Imprisonment in default of payment of fines

(delivering oral judgment): In this appeal, the appellant was convicted of four offences under the Films Act as follows:

(1) making video tapes without a licence under s 6(1) of the Act;

(2) distributing uncensored video tapes under s 6(1);

(3) having in his possession 217 video tapes without a valid certificate authorizing the exhibition thereof under s 21(1) of the Act;

(4) having possession of an obscene video tape under s 29(1) of the Act.

He was sentenced as follows:

First charge: Fine of $5,000 and in default thereof three months` imprisonment.

Second charge: Fine of $5,000 and in default thereof three months` imprisonment.

Third charge: Fine of $100 per tape (totalling $21,700) and in default thereof three days for each tape (totalling 651 days);

Fourth charge: Fine of $500 and in default thereof five weeks` imprisonment.

Because the appellant has not been able to pay any of the fines, all the default punishments have taken effect.
Because the default sentences of imprisonment run consecutively, the court having no power to make them run concurrently by virtue of s 224(b)(iv) of the Criminal Procedure Code, the result is that the appellant will have to serve about 29 months in prison.

The facts adduced in evidence showed that upon a raid conducted by officers from the Board of Film Censors, 219 video tapes were found in the premises of the accused`s sister.
The accused pleaded guilty to the four charges. It should be noted that the first charge and the second charge do not specify the number of video tapes he was accused of having made or distributed whereas the third charge specified 217 video tapes in his possession. That being the case, it would appear that the accused has been charged for three separate offences for what was essentially one composite unlawful act on his part, ie he was making video tapes for the purpose of distribution.

Two points arise in this appeal.
The first is that the default sentences on the first and second charges were excessive in that they bore no proportion to the maximum penalty that could be suffered by the accused. The maximum fine that can be imposed under s 6(1) of the Films Act is $20,000 and the maximum default sentence is six months by virtue of s 224(c)(iii) of the Criminal Procedure Code. The default sentence should therefore be one and a half months. That is the submission.

The second point is that by imposing a default sentence of 651 days` imprisonment in respect of the third

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3 cases
  • Chia Kah Boon v Public Prosecutor
    • Singapore
    • High Court (Singapore)
    • 5 August 1999
    ... ... In Seow Puay Seng v PP [1988] SLR 289 [1988] 2 MLJ 160 , which concerned an offender who was unable ... ...
  • Lui Chang Soong v Public Prosecutor
    • Singapore
    • High Court (Singapore)
    • 13 February 1992
    ... ... Following the decision of Chan Sek Keong JC, as he then was, in Seow Puay Seng v PP ,3 there was only one offence of unlawful possession of 414 tapes or of 127 films ... ...
  • Public Prosecutor v Yang Qiuyu
    • Singapore
    • District Court (Singapore)
    • 9 February 2010
    ...the sums of $20,000 and $17,900, the accused was to serve an imprisonment term of 4 months and 3 months respectively. In Seow Puay Seng [1988] 1SLR(R) 137, the accused was a first offender who had in his possession 217 video tapes without valid certificates authorising the exhibition thereo......

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