Sun Hongyu v Public Prosecutor

CourtHigh Court (Singapore)
JudgeYong Pung How CJ
Plaintiff CounselLim Kim Hong (Kim and Co)
Subject MatterCriminal Procedure and Sentencing,Accused person,Rights,Whether petitioner allowed to challenge unequivocal admission of statement of facts at trial by disputing facts contained therein at application for criminal revision,Immigration,Whether appropriate to charge petitioner under s 36 of Act,Section 36 Immigration Act (Cap 133, 1997 Rev Ed),Petitioner obtaining visa and visit pass and returning to Singapore using new passport,Meaning of "written permission" under s 36 of Act,Whether petitioner failing to get "written permission" of Controller under s 36 Immigration Act,Whether accused's right to legal counsel extending to right to contact third parties to enquire into right to counsel or legal consequences of arrest,Constitutional Law,Whether circumstances warranting criminal revision,Revision of proceedings,Control of admission,Whether petitioner understanding nature and consequences of plea of guilt,Petitioner prohibited from entering Singapore without obtaining prior written permission from Controller of Immigration
Docket NumberCriminal Revision No 4 of 2005
Defendant CounselApril Phang (Deputy Public Prosecutor)
Published date14 April 2005
Date13 April 2005

13 April 2005

Yong Pung How CJ:

1 The petitioner filed a petition for criminal revision to quash her conviction and set aside the sentence imposed on her on 7 February 2005 by the District Judge (the “judge”) on one charge of unlawful return to Singapore under s 36 of the Immigration Act (Cap 133, 1997 Rev Ed) (“the Act”). I dismissed the application and now set out my reasons.

The facts

2 The petitioner was arrested on 11 January 2005. Investigations revealed that she had been previously arrested on 20 June 2003 for vice activities whilst on a valid social visit pass, and referred to the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (“ICA”) for repatriation. At that time, she was in possession of a People’s Republic of China passport with the serial number G05643970 bearing the name Sun Hongyu (the “old passport”).

3 Prior to being deported to China on 23 June 2003, the petitioner was served a ban notice by an immigration officer in Mandarin. She was informed that she was barred from entering Singapore for one year from 23 June 2003 to 23 June 2004. She had to obtain the prior written permission of the Controller of Immigration (the “Controller”) should she wish to return to Singapore, and failure to do so would render her liable to be imprisoned for between one and three years. The petitioner accepted the notice and acknowledged that she knew the consequences of breaching it.

4 The petitioner subsequently obtained a new People’s Republic of China passport with the serial number G09322619 bearing the name Sun Qiaoman (the “new passport”). Using the new passport, she re-entered Singapore on 20 June 2004. She had not obtained written permission from the Controller beforehand, and upon arrival in Singapore she did not disclose that she was under a prohibition.

5 In statements recorded under s 122(5) of the Criminal Procedure Code (Cap 68, 1985 Rev Ed), the petitioner admitted that she knew that the entry ban imposed on her was in force, that she had to obtain prior written permission before visiting Singapore, and that she knew the consequences of failing to obtain permission.

6 At the trial, the petitioner, who was then unrepresented, pleaded guilty to the charge under s 36 of the Act. She admitted without qualification to the Statement of Facts (the “SOF”), which set out the facts in the preceding paragraphs. Three other charges under s 57(1)(k) of the Act involving false statements made to ICA were taken into consideration. The judge convicted the petitioner, sentenced her to one year’s imprisonment, and ordered that she be repatriated upon completion of her sentence.

The petitioner’s submissions

7 Before this court, the petitioner made the following submissions:

(a) her unequivocal admission to the SOF was qualified because she was under the mistaken impression that the entry ban imposed on her ran from 20 June 2003 and not 23 June 2003, and she could not recall being informed that she required prior written permission to re-enter Singapore;

(b) she believed that ICA was fully aware of her true identity, and that she had re-entered Singapore lawfully on 20 June 2004;

(c) she should not have been charged under s 36 of the Act, as she had obtained a visa and visit pass and therefore could not be said to have re-entered Singapore without the Controller’s written permission;

(d) her cautioned statements were involuntary or, alternatively, that she was compelled to admit to the charges against her under undue influence as the immigration officer handling her case (the “Officer”) had told her that she would otherwise face additional charges in respect of her engagement to one Lee Liat Yeong and a longer term of imprisonment; and

(e) she had been denied the right to contact and consult her family, friends and fiancé.

The law on criminal revision

8 The High Court’s powers of revision in respect of criminal proceedings and matters in subordinate courts are conferred by s 23 of the Supreme Court of Judicature Act (Cap 322, 1999 Rev Ed) and s 268 of the Criminal Procedure Code. Pursuant to these powers, the High Court has the discretion to, amongst other things, review a conviction passed by the subordinate courts. However, the very scope of these powers obliges the court to act with great circumspection in exercising them, and these powers will be exercised sparingly: Mok Swee Kok v PP [1994] 3 SLR 140. It is not the purpose of a criminal revision to become a convenient form of “backdoor appeal” against conviction for accused persons who had pleaded guilty to their charges: Teo Hee Heng v PP [2000] 3 SLR 168.

9 For the court to exercise its revisionary powers, there must be some serious injustice. No precise definition of serious injustice is possible as that would unduly circumscribe the discretion of the court. However, it must generally be shown that there is something palpably wrong in the decision of the court below that strikes at its basis as an exercise of judicial power: Ang Poh Chuan v PP [1996] 1 SLR 326, Mohamed Hiraz Hassim v PP [2005] 1 SLR 622. The revisionary court should confine itself to errors of law or procedure, and deal with questions of evidence or findings of fact only in exceptional circumstances to prevent a miscarriage of justice: Sarjit Singh s/o Mehar Singh v PP [2002] 4 SLR 762, Shan Kai Weng v PP [2004] 1 SLR 57.

The petitioner’s plea of guilt

10 Before a plea of guilt is accepted, the trial judge must ensure that the plea is valid and unequivocal. A plea must be unequivocal in the sense that, it must signify without doubt and qualification the accused’s admission to all the ingredients of the offence and all the averments in the charge: Rajeevan...

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3 cases
  • Tan Chor Jin v Public Prosecutor
    • Singapore
    • Court of Three Judges (Singapore)
    • 18 July 2008 contact third parties to discover and inquire into his right to counsel or the legal consequences of his arrest (eg, Sun Hongyu v PP [2005] 2 SLR 750 at [34]) and whether the right to counsel is available only if there are lawyers who are willing to represent the accused (eg, Balasundara......
  • Public Prosecutor v Dinesh s/o Rajantheran
    • Singapore
    • Court of Three Judges (Singapore)
    • 23 April 2019
    ...powers will only be exercised in cases of serious injustice (Balasubramanian Palaniappa at [35]; Sun Hongyu v Public Prosecutor [2005] 2 SLR(R) 750 at [9]; Md Rafiqul at [45]). In this category of cases, it will be rare for an accused person’s conviction to be set aside at the post-sentence......
  • Tan Chor Jin v Public Prosecutor
    • Singapore
    • Court of Three Judges (Singapore)
    • 18 July 2008 contact third parties to discover and inquire into his right to counsel or the legal consequences of his arrest (eg, Sun Hongyu v PP [2005] 2 SLR 750 at [34]) and whether the right to counsel is available only if there are lawyers who are willing to represent the accused (eg, Balasundara......
1 books & journal articles
  • The discretionary death penalty for drug couriers in Singapore
    • United Kingdom
    • International Journal of Evidence & Proof, The Nbr. 20-1, January 2016
    • 1 January 2016
    ...asked if s. 33B of the MDA26. Rajeevan Edakalavan vPublic Prosecutor [1998] 1 SLR(R) 10 at [21]; Sun Hongyu vPublic Prosecutor [2005] 2 SLR(R) 750at [34].27. Public Prosecutor vLeong Siew Chor [2006] SGCA 38 at [9]; James Raj s/o Arokiasamy vPublic Prosecutor [2014] 2 SLR307 at [14].28. See......

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