Teo Geok Fong v Lim Eng Hock

JudgeYong Pung How CJ
Judgment Date05 September 1996
Neutral Citation[1996] SGHC 193
Docket NumberMagistrate's Appeal No 367 of 1995
Date05 September 1996
Published date19 September 2003
Plaintiff CounselLawrence Quahe and Valerie Tan (Harry Elias & Pnrs)
Citation[1996] SGHC 193
Defendant CounselRaj Singam and Randolph Khoo (Drew & Napier)
CourtHigh Court (Singapore)
Subject Matters 95 Penal Code (Cap 225),Whether reliable witness,Impeaching witnesses’ credibility,Hurt,Sentencing,s 95 Penal Code (Cap 224),Criminal Law,Witnesses,Voluntarily causing hurt,Evidence,Whether de minimis principle applicable,Whether his evidence should be rejected in toto,Criminal Procedure and Sentencing,Offences,Witness lied on some matters,Applicability of de minimis principle,Slap on left cheek

The appellant was charged as follows :

You, Teo Geok Fong (NRIC No. 1290541/F) of 39 Victoria Park Road,Singapore, are charged that on the 12th day of June 1995 at or about 10.40 amat Leonie Hill, #16-03, Horizon Tower West, Singapore, you did voluntarilycause hurt to Lim Eng Hock (NRIC No. 0004578/J) of 29 Leonie Hill, #16-03,Horizon Tower West, Singapore, by slapping him on his left cheek, and you havethereby committed an offence punishable under Section 323 of the Penal Code,Cap 225 (1985 Rev. Ed.)

In the court below, the appellant was found guilty, convicted andfined$300, in default of payment, one week`s imprisonment.
The appellant paidthe fine and appealed against her conviction. At the end of the hearing, I wasof the view that although the appellant was guilty of the offence,nevertheless I would allow the appeal and set aside the conviction for thefollowing reasons.

Background facts

This matter arose in the wake of a matrimonial dispute betweenthe twoparties, who are husband and wife.
As such, I saw it fit to relate thebackground facts to this matter in order to give a more complete account tothe whole story.

The parties were married with two children, a daughter Lim HweeLi agedfour, and a son Lim Wee Kiat aged two.
Subsequently the marriage turned sourand led to a series of events culminating in this incident. On 26 April 1995the respondent (who was the complainant in this case) obtained an ex parteorder for the sole custody, care and control of the children. To date, thismatter continues to be hotly contested.

Whilst the matrimonial dispute was pending, the appellant allegedthatthe respondent had assaulted her.
The appellant then obtained a medical reportof the injuries sustained by her from the assault and based on this, wasgranted an expedited personal protection order on 9 May 1995 by thesubordinate courts. Apparently, on 22 May 1995, the police were called as theappellant required assistance to prevent another assault against her, thistime by her mother-in-law. Presently, the appellant is living with hersister.

On 1 June 1995, the High Court granted both parties joint custodyof thechildren in the interim.
Meanwhile, a number of private summonses andcross-summonses had been taken out by the parties against each other in thesubordinate courts. This incident of voluntarily causing hurt was thesubject-matter of one of the private summonses taken out by the respondentalleging that the appellant had slapped him on his left cheek. I shall nowturn to the events as they were narrated by the parties.

The respondent`s version ofevents

The respondent gave evidence that on 12 June 1995, at about 10.10am,his wife, the appellant, returned to the matrimonial home at 29 Leonie Hill,#16-03, Horizon Tower West with her nephew, Low Leong Cheng (Low).
Therespondent did not know the reason for her return to the flat.

Without taking off their shoes or greeting the respondent as theyentered the flat, the appellant and Low proceeded towards therespondent`s mother`s room.
Using a ladder which was obtained fromthe family area, and upon the appellant`s instructions, Low retrievedcertain items from the cupboards in the room. Meanwhile the respondent broughtin his camera and started taking photographs of the activities of theappellant and Low.

At the same time the respondent told Low that if anything wentmissing,he would report Low to the police.
At this juncture the appellant interjected,saying `Don`t worry, he can`t touch me, I would put him injail`. The respondent thought that the appellant was referring to thepersonal protection order which she had obtained. The respondent`smother was in the room and she heard the appellant utter `rotten man,rotten woman` in Hokkien.

The appellant and Low then proceeded to the study room, themasterbedroom and the children`s room to retrieve more things.
As they weremoving from the study room to the master bedroom, the appellant paused tospeak to the children. Low started to gather the things which he and theappellant had retrieved and brought them to the lift lobby.

Whilst the appellant was passing by the family area towards theliftlobby, she paused for a moment to hug her son.
All this while, the respondenthad been following her around, taking snapshots of her activities in the flat.The appellant then moved towards the lift lobby to wait for the lift. Therespondent was standing in the family area, about six to seven feet away fromthe appellant and wanted to take a picture of the items that were taken out tothe lift lobby. At the same time, the respondent was holding on to hisdaughter.

Suddenly, the appellant lunged forward, swung her right hand attherespondent and slapped him on his left cheek.
The respondent turned away butcould not avoid the slap. He lost his balance and dropped the camera, butfortunately he did not drop his daughter as she had clung on tightly to him.The appellant was allegedly heard to say `You dare not even touch me. Iwill put you in jail. I don`t even have to go to court to put you injail`.

After this, the appellant went back to the lift lobby and whenthe liftarrived, her nephew loaded the things into the lift and they left.
Accordingto the respondent, he managed to take a picture of the appellant coming at himjust before the slap was executed. This photograph was tendered and admittedin the court below as an exhibit.

The slapping incident was also witnessed by therespondent`smother, Thng Goon See, and the maid.
According to the respondent`smother, she was standing in the family area behind the respondent but facingin the direction of the lift. She saw the appellant slap the respondent on hisleft cheek and, after the assault, saw the camera flung towards herdirection.

The maid further testified that she was standing in the familyarea withthe respondent`s son beside her, when the incident occurred.
Shewitnessed the appellant slapping the respondent on his left cheek and therewas a flash of light from the camera before the slap was given. At the sametime, the respondent was holding on to his daughter. She also heard theappellant uttering some words to the respondent but did not understand whatthey were.

The appellant`s version ofevents

The appellant deposed that she had returned to the matrimonialhome on12 June 1995 to retrieve some of her belongings.
Her nephew came to assist heras she was suffering from a back injury and was unable to climb a ladder orcarry heavy loads. She had an appointment with the doctors` that morningand she decided to pick up her belongings on her way there.

Just as she was in her mother-in-law`s room, the respondentstarted taking photographs.
She denied threatening the respondent as healleged. Instead, when the respondent had threatened to report her nephew tothe police for coming to the flat to steal his things, she told her nephew toignore the respondent as he just wanted to irritate her and was up to nogood.

Having gathered her belongings, the appellant saw hermother-in-law inthe family area and the latter scolded her in Hokkien saying `rottenwoman`.
The appellant then uttered the very same words back at hermother-in-law to voice her sentiments. As she was leaving the flat, she pausedby at the family area to hug both her children who were then standing on achair in the family area.

The appellant`s nephew was already at the lift lobby withherbelongings.
The appellant then proceeded to the lift lobby and waited for thelift to arrive. The appellant claimed that she was facing her nephew at thelift lobby and her back was towards the family area. During cross-examinationhowever, the appellant clarified that whilst she was waiting for the lift, shehad moved into the family area. Both her children were at the chair beside theglass door of the home.

As the children were crying, she turned around to take a look atthem.As she turned around, she saw a camera directly in front of her and she wasstartled.
She let out a scream and swung her right hand outwards in aclockwise direction to avoid the camera. The appellant denied that she hit therespondent on his face as the camera was in front of him. However, she was notsure whether she had hit the camera when she swung her hand outwards, aseverything happened so quickly.

After that, there was a flash from the camera, the respondentretreatedand the camera fell to the floor on his left hand side.
As the respondent hadbeen following her around taking photographs, she felt frustrated andirritated. Hence, without further ado, she turned around and left with hernephew when the lift came.

As they were leaving, the respondent uttered to the nephewsaying,`I will bring you to court, you come to my house to steal things`.
The appellant maintained that both the children were all along beside thechair near the glass door in the family area and that the respondent was notcarrying their daughter when the incident happened. The appellant denied thatafter the incident, she had said to the respondent, `You dare not eventouch me. I will put you in jail. I don`t even have to go to court toput you in jail`.

The appellant`s nephew`s evidence was in tandem withhertestimony.
According to him, he had gone to the lift lobby with some boxescontaining the appellant`s personal belongings and was waiting for thelift. Suddenly, he heard the appellant scream, and he turned around. He sawthe appellant`s right hand flung outwards. The respondent then steppedback, there was a flash and the camera fell onto the floor. When all thesehappened, the appellant was about two arms` length from the respondentand the respondent was not carrying his daughter.

The trial judge`sdecision

The trial judge`s decision hinged mainly on the evaluationof thephotograph which had been taken by the respondent.
The appellant claimed thatshe had swung her right hand outwards as she turned around to face therespondent and had swept her right hand from her left to her right to avoidthe camera. In turn, the respondent claimed that in executing the slap,...

To continue reading

Request your trial
25 cases
  • Balbir Singh s/o Amar Singh v Public Prosecutor and another appeal
    • Singapore
    • High Court (Singapore)
    • 22 Abril 2010
    ...if that harm is so slight that no person of ordinary sense and temper would complain of such harm. In Teo Geok Fong v Lim Eng Hock [1996] 2 SLR(R) 957 (“Teo Geok Fong”), a couple were in the midst of divorce proceedings. The wife had slapped her husband because she was annoyed with him taki......
  • Lim Hean Nerng v Lim Ee Choo
    • Singapore
    • High Court (Singapore)
    • 12 Mayo 1998
    ... ... The petitioner relied on the case of Teo Geok Fong v Lim Eng Hock [1996] 2 SLR 431 ... That case however can be distinguished in that the harm ... ...
  • Trans-World (Aluminium) Ltd v Cornelder China (Singapore)
    • Singapore
    • High Court (Singapore)
    • 17 Marzo 2003
    ...witness has given inconsistent evidence is not in itself enough to reject his evidence in toto. Yong CJ in Teo Geok Fong v Lim Eng Hock [1996] 3 SLR 431 said:“…in the context of impeachment of a witness’ credibility, the mere fact that the credit of a witness had been impeached did not nece......
  • Lim Hwee Meng v Citadel Investment Pte Ltd
    • Singapore
    • Court of Appeal (Singapore)
    • 6 Agosto 1998
    ... ... witness`s evidence to determine what was true and which aspects should be disregarded: Teo Geok Fong v Lim Eng Hock [1996] 1 SLR 431 ... 29.Counsel for the appellant also pointed out that, ... ...
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 books & journal articles
  • CORPORAL PUNISHMENT OF CHILDREN BY PARENTS Is It Discipline or Violence and Abuse?
    • Singapore
    • Singapore Academy of Law Journal No. 2018, December 2018
    • 1 Diciembre 2018
    ...been said to be “enshrined” in s 95 of the Penal Code (Cap 224, 2008 Rev Ed) (acts causing slight harm): Teo Geok Fong v Lim Eng Hock[1996] 2 SLR(R) 957 at [48]. This provision reads: Nothing is an offence by reason that it causes, or that it is intended to cause, or that it is known to be ......

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT