Sim Teck Ho v Public Prosecutor

JudgeChao Hick Tin JA
Judgment Date23 August 2000
Neutral Citation[2000] SGCA 44
Date23 August 2000
Subject MatterPhysical possession,Controlled Drugs,Knowledge of drugs,Whether accused in physical control of drugs,Plastic bag with drugs placed in flat's storeroom,Criminal Law,Whether element of knowledge proved,Accused given plastic bag by ex-prison mate,Whether ignorance of contents of plastic bag a defence,Possession of drugs,Flat occupied and visited by others,Trafficking,Offences
Docket NumberCriminal Appeal No 11 of 2000
Published date19 September 2003
Defendant CounselJaswant Singh (Deputy Public Prosecutor)
CourtCourt of Appeal (Singapore)
Plaintiff CounselChua Teck Leong and Nicolas Aw (Derrick Ravi Partnership)

(delivering the grounds of judgment of the court): The appellant was convicted in the High Court on the following charge:

That you Sim Teck Ho, on 11 November 1999, at or about 1pm, at Blk 644 Yishun Street 61 [num ]07-312, Singapore, did traffic in a controlled drug specified in Class `A` of the First Schedule to the Misuse of Drugs Act (Cap 185), to wit, by having in your possession for the purpose of trafficking seven (7) plastic packets containing not less than 130.46 g of diamorphine at the aforesaid place without any authorisation under the said Act or the Regulations made thereunder, and you have thereby committed an offence under s 5(1)(a) read with s 5(2) and punishable under s 33 of the Misuse of Drugs Act (Cap 185).

He appealed against his conviction.
We heard his appeal and dismissed it. We now give our reasons.

The facts

In the early afternoon of 11 November 1999, at about 1pm, a team of Central Narcotic Bureau (`CNB`) officers raided a HDB flat at Block 644, Yishun Street 61, [num ]07-312 (`the flat`). The flat was occupied by the appellant`s two brothers, Sim Soon Leong (`Soon Leong`) and Sim Hai Huat (`Hai Huat`), and his mother, Mdm Tan Soh Gek (`Mdm Tan`). The appellant and his other brother Sim Teck Leong were staying there temporarily. The appellant had a rented flat in Sin Ming Industrial Estate, but had been living with his mother at the flat for one or two months before the raid. Mdm Tan, Soon Leong and the appellant were in the flat at the time of the raid.

After entering the flat, the CNB officers placed the appellant under arrest on suspicion of having consumed a controlled drug.
They then conducted a search of the flat. Sgt Harry Ong Keng Leng (`Sgt Harry Ong`) found a Watson`s plastic bag (`the bag`) in the storeroom, placed between two red pails on the floor beneath the shelves. The bag contained seven packets of yellow granular substance. Insp Lee Chai Hwa (`Insp Lee`) pointed to the bag and asked the appellant in Hokkien what it was. The appellant replied that he did not know. Insp Lee then asked who it belonged to. The appellant replied that it belonged to `Ah Bei`, a Malaysian, and that he was keeping it for Ah Bei. Insp Lee asked the appellant why he was keeping the stuff for Ah Bei, and the appellant answered that he made $350 for keeping it. The seven packets were subsequently sent to the Department of Scientific Services for analysis and were found to contain no less than 130.46 g of diamorphine.

ASP Fan Tuck Chee (`ASP Fan`) arrived at the flat at 3pm.
He asked the appellant six questions, including how Ah Beh could be contacted. In the process, it was revealed that the appellant had Ah Beh`s telephone number. A piece of paper with the number 020167527126 and the Chinese letters for `Ah Bei` was retrieved from the appellant. That number was subsequently ascertained to be a Malaysian telephone number. Attempts to contact Ah Bei with that number were unsuccessful.

In his voluntary statements to the police, the appellant gave an account of how he had come about the bag.
On 9 November 1999, two nights before his arrest, the appellant was at the coffeshop at Blk 605 Yishun, where he worked as a hawker assistant. Sometime after 9pm, the public telephone at the coffeeshop rang. The appellant picked up the phone. A male voice at the other end asked for `Teh Oh`, which was the appellant`s nickname. The person introduced himself as Ah Beh. When the appellant said that he did not know him, Ah Beh said that the appellant would recognise him if they met. Ah Beh told him that he was one of the appellant`s former prison inmates, but the appellant could not recall who Ah Beh was. Ah Beh then told the appellant that his worker would pass the appellant something to keep and that somebody else would collect the thing a few days later. The worker would also pass the appellant a piece of paper with a telephone number. The appellant was to pass the telephone number to the person collecting and tell that person to call Ah Beh.

At about 11.15pm of the same night, after the stall had been packed up, two men that the appellant had not seen before, a Malay and a Chinese, arrived at the coffeeshop and passed the appellant the bag together with the piece of paper with Ah Beh`s telephone number.
The appellant did not ask them what was contained in the bag. Although the top of the bag was rolled up, it was not sealed. The appellant claimed that he did not open it to examine the contents. The appellant then headed straight back to the flat, and kept the bag in the storeroom, in the location where it was found by the CNB raiding team. The appellant said that he used the storeroom as he believed that nobody would notice the bag there. After that, the appellant showered and went to sleep on the sofa in the living room, where he had been sleeping since moving into the flat.

The next day, on 10 September 1999, the appellant woke up in the afternoon.
He left the flat for the hawker stall just before 4pm. At about 8pm, he went to see the doctor. Thereafter, he returned to work and went back to the flat at about 11pm. He then went to sleep and was still asleep when the raid occurred the next day.

Decision of the court below

The trial judge found that no one, other than the appellant, entered the storeroom between 9 November 1999 and 11 November 1999 and that the bag and its contents remained intact from the time it was placed in the storeroom by the appellant until the time of its discovery by the CNB officers.

The appellant`s assertion of total ignorance of the contents was rejected by the trial judge.
In the trial judge`s view, the circumstances in which the appellant came into possession of the bag, if true, were so suspicious that it would require a totally mindless person to have done what the appellant claimed he did. Even if he did not suspect anything illicit, he surely...

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11 cases
  • Ali bin Mohamad Bahashwan v PP
    • Singapore
    • Court of Appeal (Singapore)
    • 5 March 2018
    ...R v Murphy [1981] AJ No 22 (folld) R v Tyrrell [1894] 1 QB 710 (folld) R v Rousseau (1991) 70 CCC (3d) 445 (refd) Sim Teck Ho v PP [2000] 2 SLR(R) 959; [2000] 4 SLR 39 (folld) US v Daniels 653 F 3d 399 (2011) (refd) Facts On 23 October 2012, Ali bin Mohamad Bahashwan (“Ali”) told his flatma......
  • Zainal bin Hamad v Public Prosecutor and another appeal
    • Singapore
    • Court of Appeal (Singapore)
    • 3 October 2018
    ...In support of his first argument on possession, Mr Fernando relied on the authority of the Court of Appeal in Sim Teck Ho v PP [2000] 2 SLR(R) 959 (“Sim Teck Ho”) for the proposition that to prove the fact of possession, it is necessary to prove not just that there was physical control of t......
  • Kch-45A-6-12-2019 Aguanshah v Pp
    • Malaysia
    • High Court (Malaysia)
    • Invalid date
    ...[47] As was said in PP v Mohd Farid bin Mohd Sukis and Anor [2002] 3 MLJ 401: “It is sufficient for me to refer to Sim Teck Ho v PP [2000] 4 SLR 39 where Yong Pung How CJ said at pp “The appellant was charged with trafficking in a controlled drug, an offence under s 5(1)(a) of the Misuse of......
  • Public Prosecutor v Low Lin Lin
    • Singapore
    • District Court (Singapore)
    • 10 June 2002
    ...18(2) of the MDA. A similar test involving physical control and knowledge of the existence of the drugs was applied in Sim Teck Ho v PP [2000] 4 SLR 39: the prosecution in this case apparently did not seek to invoke s 18(1) of the MDA; and the interpretation of the provision was thus not in......
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2 books & journal articles
    • Singapore
    • Singapore Academy of Law Journal No. 2020, December 2020
    • 1 December 2020
    ...2 SLR 254 at [29]. 42 Adili Chibuike Ejike v Public Prosecutor [2019] 2 SLR 254 at [32]–[35]. See also Sim Teck Ho v Public Prosecutor [2000] 2 SLR(R) 959 at [13]; Obeng Comfort v Public Prosecutor [2017] 1 SLR 633 at [34] – [35]; Ali bin Mohamad Bahashwan v Public Prosecutor [2018] 1 SLR 6......
    • Singapore
    • Singapore Academy of Law Journal No. 2006, December 2006
    • 1 December 2006 438, [50]. 59 [1996] 2 SLR 266 at 271, [17]. 60 [2001] 3 SLR 534 at [22]. 61 Less self-contradictory are cases like Sim Teck Ho v PP[2000] 4 SLR 39 at [13], which described the position as follows: Therefore, in order to prove possession, the Prosecution must prove that there is first, p......

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