Teo Geok Fong v Lim Eng Hock

CourtHigh Court (Singapore)
JudgeYong Pung How CJ
Judgment Date05 September 1996
Neutral Citation[1996] SGHC 193
Citation[1996] SGHC 193
Defendant CounselRaj Singam and Randolph Khoo (Drew & Napier)
Published date19 September 2003
Date05 September 1996
Plaintiff CounselLawrence Quahe and Valerie Tan (Harry Elias & Pnrs)
Docket NumberMagistrate's Appeal No 367 of 1995
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...

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