Sim Bok Huat Royston v Public Prosecutor

JudgeYong Pung How CJ
Judgment Date02 April 2001
Neutral Citation[2001] SGHC 67
Citation[2001] SGHC 67
Defendant CounselOng Hian Sun (Deputy Public Prosecutor)
Published date19 September 2003
Plaintiff CounselHoward Cashin (Howard Cashin & Lim) and Intekhab Khan (J Koh & Co)
Date02 April 2001
Docket NumberMagistrate's Appeal No 323 of 2000
CourtHigh Court (Singapore)
Subject Matters 6(a) Prevention of Corruption Act (Cap 241, 1993 Ed),Whether s 147 required voluntariness for admission,s 147 Weight to be accorded to such statements once admitted,Whether trial judge correct in ordering voir dire to determine voluntariness of witness' statements,Whether witness' police or other statement to be voluntary in order to be admissible as evidence in trial,Admission of previous inconsistent statement under s 147 of Evidence Act (Cap 97, 1997 Ed),Admissibility of statements,Criminal Procedure and Sentencing,Criminal Law,Weight to be accorded to witnessÂ’ previous inconsistent statement governed non-exhaustively by factors in s 147 (6)- s 147 Evidence Act (Cap 97, 1997 Ed),Corruptly receiving gratification,Voir dire,Appeal,Evidence Act (Cap 97, 1997 Ed),Admissibility of evidence,Whether offence proven beyond reasonable doubt,Whether sentence of nine months' imprisonment manifestly inadequate on facts of case,Need for deterrent sentence,Evidence,s 147 Evidence Act (Cap 97, 1997 Ed),Accused committed offence while an inspector in police force,Offences

: This was another in a series of cases involving the now infamous Geylang moneylender Chua Tiong Tiong, otherwise known as `Ah Long San`, which have perplexed the courts in recent months. At the end of the hearing, I dismissed the appeal and now give my reasons.

Salient facts

The facts of this case are relatively straightforward. The appellant, who was a police officer, was charged with one count of having accepted an unspecified sum of money from Chua Tiong Tiong (`Chua`) through one Tan Yuek Theng (PW2) (`Tan`) outside the M3-KTV Lounge in Geylang sometime in January 1998. The charge under s 6(a) of the Prevention of Corruption Act (Cap 241, 1993 Ed) (`the PCA`) alleged that the appellant accepted the moneys as gratification in return for using his position as a police officer to assist Chua in his affairs.

The prosecution`s case

The prosecution for its case relied mainly and in fact primarily on the evidence of Tan. Prior to the trial, Tan had given, inter alia, two statements to two senior special investigators from the Corrupt Practices Investigating Bureau (`CPIB`) separately: P4, which was recorded by SSI Liew Khee Yat (PW6) (`SSI Liew`) in the early morning of 2 January 1999; and P3, recorded by SSI Jacqueline Foo (PW5) (`SSI Foo`) some 22 days later on 24 February 1999. The gist of what Tan had said in these statements, particularly in P4, was that he had been a runner for Chua between 1997 and 1998, and had assisted the latter in passing envelopes of cash to the appellant, as well as several other police officers, including Kelvin Fong and William Fong. He was previously acquainted with Kelvin who subsequently introduced him to William in 1995. Thereafter, he was further introduced to the appellant by Kelvin some time in 1998 at a drinking session. With respect to the appellant, Tan said that he had, on one night in January 1998, been given an envelope of cash by Chua at the back of a coffeeshop in Geylang with the instruction that he should pass the envelope of cash to the appellant, who would be waiting for him at the M3-KTV Lounge several streets away. The envelope was sealed and Tan did not open it. From his experience of having handled cash as a loanshark before, however, he was able to tell that there were two stacks of S$50 notes inside the envelope. He proceeded to the M3-KTV Lounge where he saw one Lim Hock Gee, whom he knew to be Chua`s personal driver, waiting there. About five minutes later, the appellant arrived in his car, following which Tan handed the envelope of cash to him after telling him that it was from Chua. The appellant accepted the envelope and drove off.

In court, under examination-in-chief by the Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP), Tan did a complete turnaround and retracted the essence of what he had said in his statements to the CPIB officers.
He denied having worked for Chua or having ever delivered envelopes of money for the latter to the appellant. He claimed that SSI Liew had threatened him as well as conducted other oppressive acts on him when recording P4, as a result of which Tan had given the statement randomly and its contents were thus his own concoctions and did not contain the truth.

At this juncture, the DPP applied for a voir dire to determine the voluntariness of P4 and P3.
Several CPIB officers who had been involved in recording statements from Tan were called during the voir dire, including SSI Liew and SSI Foo. SSI Liew denied the allegations made against him by Tan to the effect that he had stripped the latter to his underwear, turned on the air-conditioner to full-blast and refused his request to visit the washroom when recording P4. He further testified that he met up with Tan again subsequently on 23 March 1999 whereupon Tan was requested to furnish a witness bond of $25,000 as compulsion for him to testify at trials against several police officers investigated by the CPIB, including the appellant. When Tan replied that he could not afford the amount, SSI Liew pleaded with his Assistant Director on Tan`s behalf for the amount to be reduced to $5,000, which it eventually was. As for the other recording officers, the substance of their evidence was to the effect that none of them had held out any threat, inducement or promise to Tan during the recording of his statements, nor had Tan complained to them about Liew`s alleged mistreatment. All the recording officers were offered to Tan himself for cross-examination, although defence counsel was not afforded the same opportunity. Under cross-examination by the DPP, Tan agreed that P4 and P3 were made by him voluntarily. He maintained this stand again in his own re-examination by withdrawing his allegations of oppressive conduct by SSI Liew.

At the end of the voir dire, the district judge ruled, based on the evidence adduced in the trial-within-a-trial, that both P4 and P3 were made by Tan voluntarily.

Upon the resumption of the main trial, Tan again confounded the court with his erratic and conflicting testimony.
While he admitted that he had indeed worked as a runner for Chua between 1997 and 1998, he denied having ever handed any envelope containing cash to Kelvin, William Fong or the appellant. He said that he had given the appellant a loan of $1,000 once, at the Changi Government Chalet, but that that was a personal loan given by himself and not on behalf of Chua. He claimed that he had stated otherwise in P4 and P3 out of fear.

At this point, the prosecution applied to impeach Tan`s credit under ss 157(c) and 147(1) of the Evidence Act (Cap 97, 1997 Ed), which application was granted by the court.
When confronted with the material discrepancies between his assertions in P4 and P3, and his testimony in court, Tan`s characteristic replies were that he had given the statements contained in P4 and P3 out of fear, that he had said them thoughtlessly, and that SSI Liew had threatened him. Under cross-examination by defence counsel, Tan again asserted that the conflicting statements in P4 and P3 were either suggested to him by SSI Liew or a figment of his own imagination and further claimed that SSI Liew had hit him with a document sometime during the recording of P4. He agreed with defence counsel that Chua had never given him envelopes of money to pass to the appellant. Upon re-examination by the DPP, Tan again maintained that the inconsistencies in P4 which implicated the appellant were thought up of by himself and that he was forced into saying what he did to SSI Liew.

At the end of the prosecution`s case, the defence made a submission of no case to answer which was rejected by the trial judge.
The appellant elected to give evidence in his defence in consequence.

The defence

The appellant`s defence was simply that he had never received any envelope of cash from Tan. He also denied having ever been to the M3-KTV Lounge in Geylang. Under cross-examination, he admitted that he had known Tan since the beginning of 1997, having been introduced to the man by Kelvin. He agreed that he had gone out with Tan before, either to coffeeshops or KTV Lounges but always with Kelvin or William around. At these outings, the appellant always left the party first so he did not know who eventually footed the bill. But he maintained that he always paid back his share of the bill to either Kelvin or William. It was not disputed that the appellant was also acquainted with Chua. He testified that he had met Chua through the latter`s brother, one Chua Tiong Chye (`CTC`), whom he had known in his army days, at a coffeeshop in Geylang. He denied knowing that Chua was the infamous illegal moneylender `Ah Long San`, and testified that he only knew him as `Ah San`. He later met Chua or `Ah San` at the Deluxe Lido Palace Nite Club in the Concorde Hotel on two separate occasions. He claimed, however, that the meetings were chance meetings and both men had gone there separately with their own groups of friends. As before, he maintained that he paid back his share of the bill on both occasions to his colleagues and did not know if Chua had paid for the appellant`s group. He admitted when pressed, however, that Chua had arranged to meet him once at the Sakura Finger Pressure Fitness Centre (`Sakura`) in Geylang on 17 December 1998 to confide in him about the legal processes concerning CTC, who had been arrested in June 1998.

It was revealed during cross-examination that the appellant had made a status enquiry into one Lim Chin Boon on Chua`s request some time in December 1998.
He disclosed that he had called up one SSG Ong Hock Leong from the Secret Societies Branch to find out if Lim Chin Boon had been arrested. He denied, however, that the information given by SSG Ong on Lim Chin Boon`s status was confidential in nature or that his act in making the enquiry was against the law, asserting that members of the public themselves could personally call up to find out if a particular person had been arrested. The appellant also did not ask Chua why he wanted this information for he simply assumed that Lim Chin Boon was either Chua`s relative or friend.

With regard to a certain blue Sunpage pager in his possession, the appellant admitted that Tan, to whom the pager belonged, had passed it to him for safekeeping sometime in late 1998.
Tan had allegedly bought the pager for one of his workers but had trouble locating him and as such, requested the appellant to keep the pager in his custody for the time being. The appellant agreed to do so as he felt it was prestigious to be carrying two pagers.

At this juncture, the DPP applied to impeach the appellant`s credit by reference to a document entitled `Statement of Facts`, which was admitted by the trial judge as exh P7.
I noted at the outset that P7 was not a document signed by the appellant but was instead signed by the DPP. It contained brief descriptions written in the third person of the facts surrounding several other charges against the appellant under the Police...

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