Tan Siew Chay and Others v Public Prosecutor

JudgeChao Hick Tin J
Judgment Date20 February 1993
Neutral Citation[1993] SGCA 13
Docket NumberCriminal Appeal No 8
Date20 February 1993
Published date23 December 2003
Plaintiff CounselRonald Lee (Cheong & Cheong)
Citation[1993] SGCA 13
Defendant CounselSpencer Gwee (Spencer Gwee & Co),Peter Fernando with Ramesh Tiwary (Leo Fernando),Christine Lee with Jasbender Kaur (Deputy Public Prosecutors),John Abraham (John Abraham)
CourtCourt of Appeal (Singapore)
Subject MatterVoluntariness,Confession,Calling for defence of accused,ss 25, 26 & 30 Evidence Act (Cap 97, 1990 Ed),Criminal Procedure and Sentencing,Whether trial judges erred in calling accused persons to enter on their defence,Whether the prosecution had made out a case which, if unrebutted, would warrant a conviction,Misuse of Drugs Act,s 122(1)Criminal Procedure Code (Cap 68),Defence,Voluntariness of statements made to narcotics officer,Penal Code (Cap 224) s 107, Explanation 2,Criminal Law,Treatment and use of confession in joint trial,Weight of evidence,Statutory offences,Admissibility of statement,Evidence,Misuse of Drugs Act (Cap 185) ss 5(a) & 12,Admissibility of statements,Test to be applied at end of prosecution case,Circumstantial evidence,Trials,Statement made by accused to narcotics officer implicating self and others,ss 25 & 26 Evidence Act (Cap 97, 1990 Ed),Trial judges erred in use of confession,Whether error occasioned substantial miscarriage of justice,Trafficking in controlled drugs,Confessions,Establishing essential elements of charge,Essential elements of charge,Statements,Abetment by intentionally aiding in transporting drugs,Proof of evidence

Cur Adv Vult

The fourth appellant, Yee Kim Yeou (`Yee`) was charged in the High Court under s 5(a) of the Misuse of Drugs Act (Cap 185) (`the Act`) with trafficking in a substantial quantity of drugs, namely, six packets containing not less than 1,693.47g of diamorphine, on 6 May 1986 by transporting them from River View Hotel at Havelock Road to the boarding gate B27 at Changi Airport. The other appellants, Tan Siew Chay (`Siew Chay`), Melvin Seet (`Seet`) and Tan Siang Leng (`Siang Leng`) and one Ng Teo Chye (`Ng`) were charged under s 5(a) read with s 12 of the Act with abetting Yee in the commission of that offence by intentionally aiding him in transporting the quantity of diamorphine from River View Hotel to the boarding gate B27 at Changi Airport. All the appellants and Ng were tried jointly. It was a very long trial spanning over 168 days and was probably the longest trial in the legal history of Singapore. At the close of the case for the prosecution the trial judges found that a case had been made out against each of the accused which, if unrebutted, would warrant his conviction and called upon each accused to enter on his defence. Only the second appellant, Seet, elected to give evidence and also adduced evidence in his defence; the other accused elected to remain silent. The trial judges at the close of the case for the defence, after hearing arguments, found each accused guilty of the charge and convicted each of them. Against the convictions, the appellants have brought this appeal; no appeal, however, has been brought by Ng.

For the purpose of the appeal it is necessary to set out and deal in some detail with the evidence adduced by the prosecution and admitted in evidence, as the principal argument advanced on behalf of the appellants was that at the close of its case the prosecution had not made out a case against them which, if unrebutted, would warrant their convictions.
We may begin with the events on 28 April 1986. On that day, a senior narcotics officer, Lim Chei Yoo (`SNO Lim`) with a party of officers from the Central Narcotics Bureau (`CNB`), acting on information, was at Woodlands Town Centre keeping a watch on a Malaysian registered car. In the evening, at 9.15pm SNO Lim saw Ng and another man entering the car. The other man drove off with Ng seated in the front passenger seat, and they were trailed to Block 17 Ghim Moh Road where Ng alighted.

On the following day, SNO Lim mounted surveillance on the flat #07-95, Block 17 (`the Ghim Moh flat`) where Ng was staying.
It was ascertained that the flat was rented by his girlfriend, Ruth Poh Beng Khim. Nothing eventful was observed by the narcotics officers during the first three days. At 2.30am on 2 May, Ng and Siang Leng were seen entering the Ghim Moh flat, and they remained there until the afternoon. At 2.35pm, they were seen coming out and boarding a taxi. The taxi was trailed to Telok Ayer Street where both of them alighted; thereafter the narcotics officers lost sight of them. At 10.20pm, Ng was seen returning to the Ghim Moh flat with Ruth Poh. On the following day, at about 3.05pm, Ng left the Ghim Moh flat and went to the void deck and waited. About 20 minutes later, Seet drove up in a white Mazda RX-7, No EX1561E, and picked Ng up from the void deck. The narcotics officers trailed the car to Block 4 Queen`s Road where the car remained there for about ten minutes before it went off. The narcotics officers could not catch up with the car and soon lost sight of it. On 5 May at 3.55pm, Ng left the Ghim Moh flat and boarded a taxi which took him to Telok Ayer Street where he alighted. He went into a coffee shop located at the junction of Telok Ayer Street and Boon Tat Street (`the Telok Ayer Street coffee shop`), and there he met Siew Chay. A short while later the two were joined by Siang Leng. Later, Ng and Siang Leng left the coffee shop and boarded the car EX1561E which was parked along Telok Ayer Street. The car went off in the direction of Maxwell Road and the narcotics officers again lost sight of it.

We now come to 6 May 1986 - the day on which the offences were committed as found by the trial judges.
On that day, at 3.30am, Ng was seen returning to the Ghim Moh flat in the car EX1561E. At 11.30am, Ng left the Ghim Moh flat and returned shortly carrying a blue bag and a polythene bag. At 3.55pm, one Lau Soh Siong (`Lau`) drove his car EH2144D with a bespectacled male Chinese as a passenger and arrived at the Ghim Moh flat. They were seen carrying bags and entering the Ghim Moh flat. About an hour later, the bespectacled male Chinese then wearing a suit came out of the Ghim Moh flat for a moment, and later he, Ng and Lau left the Ghim Moh flat. Ng was then carrying a bag. They boarded the car and Lau drove off and proceeded to River View Hotel at Havelock Road arriving there at about 6.10pm; they were being trailed all the way by the narcotics officers. The bespectacled male Chinese in the suit and Ng got out of the car and both went into the hotel, while Lau drove off. At 6.20pm, Seet was seen driving his car EX1561E coming out of King`s Hotel car park (which was opposite River View Hotel) and proceeding in the direction of Ganges Avenue. At 7pm, Seet was seen driving his car and arriving at River View Hotel. He parked his car outside the hotel some distance from the entrance, went into the hotel and took the lift up.

At 9pm, Siew Chay and Yee were seen leaving River View Hotel; Yee was wearing a suit.
They boarded a taxi which took them to Changi Airport; they were trailed all the way by the narcotics officers. Soon after Siew Chay and Yee had left the hotel, Seet, Ng and Siang Leng came out of the hotel and got into the car EX1561E and Seet drove off. They also went to Changi Airport and were trailed by the narcotics officers. On arrival at Changi Airport, Siew Chay and Yee proceeded to the departure hall. Siew Chay went to the check-in counter 053 row 5 for the flight SQ24 departing for Amsterdam that night, while Yee stood outside at or near the railings. After Siew Chay had completed the checking-in, he joined Yee and they both walked to a row of seats nearby where they sat down. Seet, Ng and Siang Leng arrived at the airport later. On arrival, Ng and Siang Leng proceeded to the flight information board and stood there for a few minutes. They then walked through the check-in area to the end near the MPH Book Store and a short while later proceeded to the buffeteria on the next level by the escalator. Seet in the meanwhile went and joined Siew Chay and Yee. A short while later, Siew Chay, Seet and Yee walked towards the departure gate. When they reached the departure gate, Yee walked inside and proceeded to the immigration checkpoint and after that made his way to the boarding gate B27. He was trailed by the narcotics officers all the way. Yee was arrested at the boarding gate B27; Siew Chay and Seet were arrested at or near the departure gate, while Ng and Siang Leng were arrested at the buffeteria.

Siew Chay, Seet, Ng and Siang Leng were brought to the customs search room at the arrival hall where they were searched.
The following items, among others, were seized from them, namely:

(1) from Siew Chay:

(a) a key to Room 1214 of River View Hotel;

(b) a grey purse containing, among other things, the following:

(i) a piece of The Glass Hotel note paper with `Gare De Nord` written on it and Chinese writing meaning `Amsterdam` and `467972` below it and the Chinese words `Mau` and `Vin` written on it;

(ii) a card with numbers and Chinese writing on it and one of the numbers was `237531`;

(iii) a cutting from a Chinese newspaper of train schedules between Johor Bahru and Singapore;

(iv) a `Honey` name card with `Amsterdam` written on it; and

(v) his Malaysian restricted passport.

(2) from Seet:

(a) a name card of Societeit Filmo, Amsterdam, with a number `279764` written on one side and `787111 Okura`, `Jim 2422686` and `Ah Lee 2727991` written on the reverse side; and

(b) a piece of paper with the writing `Hasnah Tel: 3377255` written on it.

(3) from Ng:

(a) a River View Hotel key card in the name of `Mr Yee` Room No `1214`, date of arrival `6 May 1986`; date of departure `7 May 1986`;

(b) River View Hotel Acknowledgment Receipt No 2553 dated `6 May` acknowledging receipt from `Mr Yee Kim Yeou` `Room/Account No: 1214` `Being payment of: Deposit` of $200;

(c) River View Hotel `Welcome` card for `Mr Yee` of Room `1214`; and

(d) a name card of `Edwin Wong Tailors`.

(4) from Siang Leng:

(a) cash of 50 Dutch Guilders.

(b) a purse containing, among other things:

(i) a cigarette box paper with `237531` written on it; and

(ii) another cigarette box paper with `Yee Kim Yeou` written on it.

After Yee was arrested at the screening room of boarding gate B27 he was brought out of the room and was physically searched by NO Lee Kiong Lock.
He was then brought to the Oberoi Lounge. The following items, among others, were seized from him:

(a) US$1,000;

(b) SIA ticket in his name;

(c) a boarding card for SQ24 on 6 May 1986;

(d) his Malaysian international passport;

(e) a leather jacket; and

(f) a piece of paper with the words `Chinese Indisch Restaurant Oceania, Scheldestraat 77, 1078 GH` written on one side and the words `Hotel Okura` written on the other.

Seet was brought to his car EX1561E with Siew Chay by SNO Yeo Kiah Hee and ANO Tai Kwong Yong.
SNO Yeo seized an OG plastic bag from the rear seat of the car directly behind the driver`s seat. The OG bag contained, among other things, two rolls of masking tape and some paper or plastic bags. SNO Yeo handed the OG bag to ANO Tai and drove the car to the car park in CNB. There SNO Lim seized from the glove compartment an air ticket folder with the words `For Yee Kim Yeou` written on it from MAS Travel Centre (Pte) Ltd. Inside the folder were written: `Departure: From Singapore-Amsterdam 6 May SQ24...

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