Sim Cheng Hui v Public Prosecutor

CourtCourt of Appeal (Singapore)
JudgeKarthigesu JA
Judgment Date06 March 1998
Neutral Citation[1998] SGCA 17
Citation[1998] SGCA 17
Defendant CounselJaswant Singh (Deputy Public Prosecutor),Gurdip Singh (George Sandosham, Gurdip & Partners) and Amolat Singh (Amolat & Partners)
Plaintiff CounselTan Teow Yeow (Tan Teow Yeow & Co) and Leong Wai Nam (JYP Chia & Co)
Published date19 September 2003
Docket NumberCriminal Appeal No 16 of 1997
Date06 March 1998
Subject MatterSatutory discretion of trial judge under s 399 Criminal Procedure Code (Cap 68) to summon or recall witnesses at any stage of proceedings,Criminal Law,s 30 Evidence Act (Cap 97, 1990 Ed),Whether trial judge has erred in recalling prosecution witness after close of prosecution's case,Misuse of Drugs Act (Cap 185),Evidence,s 399 Criminal Procedure Code (Cap 68),Statements,Abetting trafficking by conspiracy -Whether prosecution have adduced enough evidence to draw inference of existence of conspiracy to traffic drugs,Whether statement amounts to 'confession' -Whether judge has erred in admitting statement against second appellant under s 30 Evidence Act (Cap 97, 1990 Ed),Another accused makes statement upon arrest


(delivering the grounds of judgment of the court): This is an appeal against the decision of the learned judge in the court below. We dismissed the appeal and we give our reasons now for so doing.

2. The charge

The first and second appellants were charged as follows:

That you,

Sim Cheng Hui

Teo Seng Peng

on or about 17 January 1997 at about 11.10am at the car park between Blocks 51 and 52 Marine Terrace, Singapore, did engage with one another and one Teo Lam Choon in a conspiracy to do a certain thing, namely, to traffic in a controlled drug specified in Class A of the First Schedule to the Misuse of Drugs Act (Cap 185), namely, ten packets of substance containing not less than 499.5g of diamorphine by the said Teo Lam Choon and in pursuance of the said conspiracy and in order to the doing of that thing, one of you arranged for the said Teo Lam Choon to collect and transfer a plastic bag containing the said drugs from motor car JDM 8808 to motor car EV 5580J which were parked in the said car park for him to transport the said drug without any authorisation under the said Act or the regulations make thereunder, and you have thereby abetted the commission of the offence by the said Teo Lam Choon of trafficking in the said drug, and you have thereby committed an offence under s 5(1)(a) read with s 12 of the Misuse of Drugs Act and punishable under s 33 of the said Act.

3.Both appellants claimed trial to the offence. In addition, Teo Choon Lam (Teo) was also charged for the offence of drug trafficking in the same trial, but he pleaded guilty soon after the trial commenced in the court below. Hence, his role subsequently in the trial, if any, was minimal.

4. The brief facts

The facts pertaining to the appeal, which were largely undisputed, was this: sometime in the early hours of 17 January 1998, several Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) officers, acting upon instructions from their superiors, proceeded to Marine Terrace to conduct a stakeout on the first appellant. They were also told to look out for Teo and one Tan Bee Lan (Tan), and were shown photographs of all three of them to help identify them. According to Inspector Paul Teo, the officer in overall charge of the whole operation, CNB officers had previously tailed the first appellant and had received anonymous tip-offs about his activities. They had reason to believe that he was involved in drug trafficking activities. As for the second appellant, he was initially not a target of surveillance by the CNB officers. Unfortunately, they then came to be suspicious of his presence when he was spotted conversing with the first appellant.

5.At about 11am, the first appellant was spotted leaving his flat at Block 52 Marine Terrace. The CNB officers at the scene therefore proceeded to tail him. By this time, more CNB officers had joined in the surveillance operation. Shortly thereafter, the first appellant was observed to have met up with the second appellant before walking together to the void deck of Block 52 where they had a conversation. It was also roughly around this time that the second appellant`s car was noticed and one of the CNB officers radioed his other colleagues at the scene informing them that this car had a Malaysian number plate of JDM 8808.

6.After a brief moment, the first and second appellant parted company. While the first appellant walked along the void deck of Block 52, the second appellant walked towards Block 51. Consequently, the second appellant was observed to have made a phone call from a public phone nearby.

7.The first appellant, on the other hand, met up with Teo. Teo was never anywhere near the scene previously, and had only just arrived in a car driven by Tan. This meeting took place somewhere at the entrance of a car park between Blocks 52 and 53. They were seem exchanging a few words before Teo handed over to the first appellant a white plastic bag. Consequently, the first appellant and Teo parted, and while Teo was seen returning to his car, car number plate EV 5508J, the first appellant took the white plastic bag and proceeded back to Block 51.

8.At this juncture, the CNB officers divided themselves into two distinct groups. One group undertook to continue to observe the first appellant, while the second group proceeded to follow Teo. For those observing the first appellant, he was seen meeting up again with the second appellant, this time at the void deck of Block 51, and the white plastic bag which he obtained from Teo was handed over to him. After the handover, the first appellant walked towards Block 52 whereas the second appellant walked to a public telephone at the end of Block 51. The trial judge accepted that this was roughly around 11.10am or so.

9.A quite different scenario was observed for Teo. After he returned back to his car from meeting the first appellant, he and Tan exited the car park and proceeded to the adjacent car park between Blocks 51 and 52. The car was then parked next to the second appellant`s car, whereupon Teo then got out and opened the front passenger door of the second appellant`s car before retrieving a white plastic bag. Thereafter, he closed the door and left the car park.

10.As soon as he left the car park, the CNB officers at the scene received their instructions to arrest the first and second appellant. For the second appellant, he was apprehended just after he made his telephone call at a public phone booth at the end of Block 51. According to PW 13, who was one of the arresting officers, he testified that they moved in for the arrest sometime at 11.15am. The white plastic bag which the second appellant was carrying was seized. After the arrest, when the second appellant was pinned to the wall, PW 13 also confirmed he felt some wetness along his thighs and he realised consequently that the second appellant had urinated in his pants. Thereafter, the second appellant was escorted back into a car where he was guarded by some other officers. In addition, the car which he was driving, JDM 8808, was searched and apart from a sum of money totalling $9,600, nothing else was found. The plastic bag which the second appellant was found to be carrying contained money in the amount of $22,900.

11.The arrest of the first appellant was equally straightforward. After he parted company with the second appellant, he walked towards Block 52. When the CNB officers moved in to arrest him, he ran, but only for a short distance, for he then gave up and surrendered to the officers. After he was arrested, he was searched and a handphone and pager was found on him. The handphone was subsequently handed over to Singapore Telecoms where it was established that its number was 96557426 and the subscriber the first appellant. During the trial, the first appellant did not dispute that the handphone belonged to him.

12.Teo and Tan were also arrested, and this was done along Siglap Road, where they had travelled to after they left the car park at Marine Terrace. All this while, they were tailed by CNB officers. This journey took them along Marine Terrace, Marine Parade Road, Marine Crescent and finally to Siglap Road where Teo and Tan parked their car. Teo was also seem putting the white plastic bag which he took from the second appellant`s car into the car boot. When the CNB officers arrested them both, they were walking along Siglap Road towards Marine Parade Road.

13.After the arrest, both of them were brought back to the car and they were questioned while the car was searched. Teo admitted without any qualification that he had drugs in his car which belonged to him and that he had obtained these drugs from a car with the number plate 8808. He had no idea who owned that car. Further, he also explained that he received a page call from a person named `Ah Pui` who left the number 8808 on his pager so as to help him identify the car to collect the drugs from. All he did therefore was to go to the car and retrieve the drugs. These were all then written down and signed by Teo. During the hearing in the court below, this statement was admitted as part of the prosecution`s case.

14.Apart from the drugs seized from Teo, which amounted to ten slabs of matter containing diamorphine, two pagers were also seized from Teo and Tan respectively. It was established from Singapore Telecom Paging that the pager seized from Teo bore the number 93163664 while the one seized from Tan was numbered 95901232. It was also established that the pager seized from Teo was registered under Tan`s name.

15.During the trial, the prosecution adduced documentary records which showed that the first appellant had paged Teo on 96319664 sometime after they met. These paged numbers contained the number 8808. The prosecution`s case was that after Teo and the first appellant met and parted, the first appellant met up with the second appellant to hand him the money for the drugs while at the same time giving Teo instructions as to where to collect the drugs which he had purchased. It was the prosecution`s contention that the second appellant was selling drugs to Teo with the first appellant acting as a middleman to transfer the money for the drugs from Teo to the second appellant.

16. Close of prosecution`s case

At the close of the prosecution`s case, the learned judge concluded that a case had been made out against both the first and second appellants. After reminding himself of the law which he had to apply in assessing the prosecution`s evidence at the close of its case, he noted that the evidence of the prosecution, if believed, was that the second appellant was a drug supplier and Teo was the purchaser, and that the transaction was executed through the first appellant. He then continued:

25 It was reasonable to infer from the evidence that [the first appellant] who played an active and vital part in the transaction knew what [Teo] was buying and what [the second appellant] was selling. I therefore found that...

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