Toh Lam Seng v Public Prosecutor

JurisdictionSingapore
JudgeYong Pung How CJ
Judgment Date30 April 2003
Neutral Citation[2003] SGHC 102
Docket NumberMagistrate's Appeal No 24 of 2003
Date30 April 2003
Published date07 October 2003
Year2003
Plaintiff CounselRamesh Tiwary (Leo Fernando)
Citation[2003] SGHC 102
Defendant CounselDavid Chew Siong Tai (Deputy Public Prosecutor)
CourtHigh Court (Singapore)
Subject MatterMitigation plea which may qualify plea of guilt,Criminal Procedure Code (Cap 68,1985 Rev Ed) s 180,Plea of guilt -Whether plea of guilt qualified,Appeals,Plea of guilt,Penal Code (Cap 224, 1985 Rev Ed) ss 300, 323, 334,Criminal Procedure and Sentencing,Sentencing,Correct approach to be taken by court

1 The petitioner was sentenced to 12 months’ imprisonment in the district court on a charge of voluntarily causing hurt under s 323 of the Penal Code (Cap 224), (“PC”). The maximum punishment for the offence is imprisonment for up to 12 months or a fine of up to $1000, or both. The petitioner had pleaded guilty to the charge, but petitioned for his conviction to be quashed on the grounds that his plea of guilt was qualified. In the alternative, he appealed against his sentence on the grounds that it was manifestly excessive. I dismissed both the petition and the appeal and now set out my grounds.

Background

2 The whole incident arose out of fairly innocuous circumstances. The petitioner was the owner of a pet shop. The victim, Soh, was a tenant of a portion of the shop. The petitioner found out that Soh had started his own pet shop business elsewhere and was attempting to “steal” his customers. After being confronted by the petitioner, Soh decided to move out of the shop.

3 On the day of the incident, Soh had returned to the shop to collect his belongings. The petitioner asked Soh for the arrears of rent due to him. Soh asked to offset the debt with goods belonging to him, but the petitioner declined his offer. Soh then refused to settle the debt, saying that it was the petitioner’s “own business”. After this, the petitioner went to unlock a chain which secured a hamster cage belonging to Soh. Soh started insulting the petitioner. The nature of these insults were as stated in the petitioner’s mitigation plea below:

Our client was told by Soh that Soh had the ability to open 2 shops (instead of just one unlike our client), that Soh’s business would be so good that this would result in our client having to end up closing down his shop, that Soh would not let our client have a easy time with his business, that Soh would not let our client step into the pet industry any longer, and Soh kept going on.

4 This continued for between half an hour to an hour. The petitioner eventually swung the chain that he had been unlocking at Soh, hitting him once on the head. He then threw the chain down. A companion of Soh’s witnessed the attack and contacted the police. According to the medical report, Soh suffered neither soft tissue damage nor any fractures on his head.

The law on qualified pleas of guilt

5 I had extensively considered the law on whether a plea of guilt is qualified in Balasubramanian Palaniappa Vaiyapuri v PP [2002] 1 SLR 314 and Koh Thian Huat v PP [2002] 3 SLR 28. In both, I emphasised the three procedural safeguards to be observed before a plea of guilt can be accepted. Briefly, they are:

(i) That the accused should plead guilty by his own mouth;

(ii) That the onus lies on the court to ensure that the accused understands the true nature and consequences of his plea; and

(iii) That the court must establish that the accused intends to admit without qualification the offence alleged against him.

6 Both requirements (ii) and (iii) are enshrined in s 180(a) and (b) of the Criminal Procedure Code (Cap 68) (“CPC”). Requirement (iii) can only be satisfied if the accused admits to all the ingredients of the offence contained in the statement of facts (“SOF”) without qualification. It was emphasised in Rajeevan Edakalavan v PP [1998] 1 SLR 815 that, for a plea to be unequivocal, it must be clear that the accused is admitting to all the averments contained in the charge and to all the ingredients of the offence contained in the SOF.

7 As was said in Balasubramanian, the general position is that a plea of guilt would only be qualified by statements in the mitigation plea where such statements either contradict material admissions of fact made by the accused to the SOF and/or where they indicate the lack of an essential ingredient of the offence.

8 There is good reason for these stringent requirements. As I observed in Koh Thian Huat, a revisionary court must jealously guard its powers to prevent abuse by litigants seeking to use it as an alternative avenue of appeal against their conviction. The safeguards protect accused persons from uninformed or misguided pleas of guilt and as such are to be stringently observed; equally, however, where circumstances show that one has pleaded guilty unreservedly and with full knowledge of the consequences, it would be an abuse of the court’s revisionary jurisdiction to allow a retraction of his plea.

9 Accordingly, the paramount function of the lower courts when accepting a plea of guilt is to determine whether the accused knowingly and unreservedly intends to plead guilty to the charge and admit the truth of the allegations against him in the SOF. In pursuance of this, it is beholden on the lower court to fully explain to the accused the nature and consequences of both the charge and his plea of guilt to it, and to ensure his comprehension. With regard to a mitigation plea, a statement which discloses the possibility of a defence does not always qualify a plea of guilt. Such statements made in mitigation could validly be treated as being made solely for their mitigatory effect without an intention to deny or contradict the accused person’s prior admissions to the charge and SOF. As I remarked in Ulaganathan Thamilarasan v PP ...

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12 cases
  • Shan Kai Weng v Public Prosecutor
    • Singapore
    • High Court (Singapore)
    • 6 November 2003
    ...all the ingredients of the offence contained in the Statement of Facts without qualification: Rajeevan Edakalavan and Toh Lam Seng v PP [2003] 2 SLR 346. 27 The appellant contended under this limb that his plea of guilt was qualified by his belief that the tablet was a sleeping pill. Althou......
  • Yeo Kwan Wee Kenneth v Public Prosecutor
    • Singapore
    • High Court (Singapore)
    • 27 February 2004
    ...urging me to make a finding that the facts of this case made out a successful defence of provocation. As I noted in Toh Lam Seng v PP [2003] 2 SLR 346, provocation is not a general defence under the Penal Code. Further, the existence of the slightest provocation does not automatically take ......
  • Annis Bin Abdullah v Public Prosecutor
    • Singapore
    • District Court (Singapore)
    • 6 November 2003
    ...Swee Kok v PP [1994] 3 SLR 140, Ngian Chin Boon v PP [1999] 1 SLR 119, Chota bin Abdul Razak v PP [1991] 2 MLJ 77 and Toh Lam Seng v PP [2003] 2 SLR 346. He was sentenced to 2 years’ The Facts 4 The Statement of Facts, to which the Accused admitted to, is reproduced below: “The Complainant ......
  • Shan Kai Weng v Public Prosecutor
    • Singapore
    • High Court (Singapore)
    • 6 November 2003
    ...all the ingredients of the offence contained in the Statement of Facts without qualification: Rajeevan Edakalavan and Toh Lam Seng v PP [2003] 2 SLR 346. 27 The appellant contended under this limb that his plea of guilt was qualified by his belief that the tablet was a sleeping pill. Althou......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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