Teo Hee Heng v Public Prosecutor

JudgeYong Pung How CJ
Judgment Date04 July 2000
Neutral Citation[2000] SGHC 125
Docket NumberCriminal Revision No 9 of 2000
Date04 July 2000
Published date19 September 2003
Plaintiff CounselK Niraiselvan (Kumar & Kumar)
Citation[2000] SGHC 125
Defendant CounselHee Mee Lin (Deputy Public Prosecutor)
CourtHigh Court (Singapore)
Subject MatterWhether plea of guilt qualified and should not be accepted,Whether wider common law doctrine of duress applicable,High court,Pressure of aggravating circumstances,Criminal revision,Lack of mitigating factors,Duress,Criminal Procedure and Sentencing,General exceptions,Governing principles,s 94 Penal Code (Cap 224, 1985 Rev Ed),Revisionary powers to enhance sentence,Criminal Law,Elements of defence,Exercise of powers of revision sparingly,Whether conviction should be quashed,Sentence manifestly inadequate

: This was a petition for criminal revision in which the petitioner sought to have his conviction set aside on the basis that his plea of guilt was a qualified one and therefore should not have been accepted. The hearing of the petition came before me on 4 May 2000 and after listening to arguments from both sides, I dismissed the application and enhanced the sentence imposed on the petitioner. I now give my reasons.

The petitioner pleaded guilty in the subordinate courts to the following charge:

You, Teo Hee Heng, are charged that you, on or about 1 June 1999, from about 12:02am to about 9.42pm, in order to the committing of extortion of about $100 attempted to put one [ast ][ast ][ast ][ast ][ast ][ast ] in fear of certain injury to her daughter, to wit, by telling her over the phone, whilst she was at her place of residence at [ast ][ast ][ast ][ast ][ast ][ast ][ast ][ast ] Singapore, his friends are currently holding her daughter [ast ][ast ][ast ][ast ][ast ][ast ] and they are playboys who prey on young girls and you have thereby committed an offence punishable under s 385 of the Penal Code (Cap 224).

Due to an impending rape case in the High Court, the prosecution made an application under s 7(3) of the Subordinate Courts Act (Cap 321) for the names and addresses of the victim and her daughter not to be published so as to protect their identities and such was ordered accordingly by the district judge.
A further charge of insulting the modesty of the same victim, an offence punishable under s 509 of the Penal Code, was taken into consideration for the purposes of sentencing. On his plea of guilt and subsequent conviction, the petitioner was sentenced to 30 months` imprisonment and four strokes of the cane.

The essential background facts of the case can be found in the statement of facts which was prepared by the prosecution following the petitioner`s plea of guilt.
It was stated that the victim of the extortion was a 44 year-old lady, who was also the mother of a 12 year-old girl. On 28 May 1999, the victim`s daughter left home and went missing thereafter. The victim subsequently reported the matter to the police and on 31 May 1999, placed advertisements in various newspapers, including the Shin Min Daily , requesting for assistance in locating her missing daughter. A copy of the Shin Min Daily with the relevant portion of the newspaper notice of the victim`s missing daughter was later shown to the petitioner by one Leow Yong Kee (`Leow`). Leow then asked the petitioner to call the victim on the pretext that he knew the whereabouts of her missing daughter and to demand $100 wrapped in the victim`s panties, if she wanted information on the whereabouts of her daughter. Leow also gave the petitioner a piece of paper with the victim`s mobile phone number written on it and taught him what to say to the victim.

On 1 June 1999, the petitioner called the victim several times, from about 12.02am to 9.42pm, and told her that his friends were currently holding her daughter and they were `playboys` who preyed on young girls.
The petitioner then agreed to lead the victim to her daughter and arranged to meet her on the same day at 4.00pm at the top spiral staircase of Chinatown Point Shopping Centre. He also told the victim that when she arrived at the arranged venue, he would ask her to sit with her legs wide apart so that he could peep at her panties. He further warned the victim not to inform her husband or to report the matter to the police. After the phone call, Leow gave $30 to the petitioner. The victim informed her husband of the arrangement and the latter turned up instead for the appointment at 3.30pm. However, the petitioner did not show up. Later on the same day, the petitioner called up the victim at her home at around 8.45pm and reprimanded her for not turning up at the agreed place. Another appointment was fixed for the next day at 3.30pm. The victim then decided to inform the police and an ambush was prepared to apprehend the petitioner. On 2 June 1999, at about 3.30pm, the victim went to the agreed location and whilst there, was contacted by the petitioner who was using a public telephone. Fearing the safety of her daughter, the victim complied with the petitioner`s instructions to spread her legs wide and thereafter took off her panties to wrap the $100. The victim was subsequently re-directed to different places before finally being told by the petitioner to proceed to Mosque Street. The petitioner was eventually arrested by the police at Block B, Mosque Street, after he was spotted using the public telephone. Upon being questioned, the petitioner admitted to the offences and implicated Leow, who was subsequently arrested at his own residence.

The above facts, which were found in the statement of facts, were all admitted to by the petitioner without any qualifications during the proceedings before the district judge.
It should be noted that Leow was also similarly charged as an accomplice to the offence and his case was heard and dealt with separately from that of the petitioner`s. A guilty plea was also tendered by Leow, who was consequently sentenced to 30 months` imprisonment and four strokes of the cane. As Leow`s case was heard before the petitioner`s, the district judge in the present case took into account what was imposed on Leow when she was determining the sentence to be passed on the petitioner.

The petitioner initially took out a petition of appeal against the sentence that was imposed on him by the district judge.
However, he later decided that he wanted to challenge his conviction and sought to appeal against the correctness of his conviction as well. As the petitioner had pleaded guilty to the offence, he was prevented by s 244 of the Penal Code from bringing an appeal against his conviction. Therefore, the appeal against sentence was withdrawn and a petition for criminal revision was brought instead. In the petition, the defence of duress was raised and it was argued that as the petitioner was actually acting throughout under the threats and instructions of Leow, he did not have the mens rea at all for committing the offence.

Principles of revision

The revisionary powers of the High Court are conferred by s 23 of the Supreme Court of Judicature Act (Cap 322) and s 268 of the Criminal Procedure Code (Cap 68) (`CPC`). Pursuant to such powers, the High Court has the discretion to exercise any of the powers conferred by ss 251, 255, 256 and 257 of the CPC, which includes reviewing the conviction passed by the lower courts. However, such powers of revision must be exercised sparingly. In Mok Swee Kok v PP [1994] 3 SLR 140 , I had particularly emphasised that although the...

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4 books & journal articles
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    • Singapore Academy of Law Journal No. 2009, December 2009
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