Ukthunthod v Public Prosecutor

JurisdictionSingapore
JudgeKarthigesu JA
Judgment Date06 December 1993
Neutral Citation[1993] SGCA 96
Docket NumberCriminal Appeal No 17 of 1993
Date06 December 1993
Year1993
Published date19 September 2003
Plaintiff CounselNS Kang (NS Kang)
Citation[1993] SGCA 96
Defendant CounselIsmail Hamid (Deputy Public Prosecutor)
CourtCourt of Appeal (Singapore)
Subject MatterWhether previous depositional statement inconsistent with court testimony,Evidence,Criminal Law,ss 147(3) & 157 Evidence Act (Cap 97, 1990 Ed),Impeaching witnesses’ credibility,Whether previous statement admissible as substantive evidence,General exceptions,Witnesses,Defence of intoxication,s 300 exception 2 Penal Code (Cap 224)

The appellant was charged in the High Court with the murder of one Man Tem-On (`the deceased`) on 30 April 1990 at about 11.25 pm at No 1 Guillemard Road, Singapore. At the conclusion of the trial he was convicted, and against his conviction this appeal was brought. We dismissed the appeal and now give our reasons.

At the trial, evidence of the events that led to the deceased`s death centred on the oral testimony of two eye-witnesses, Somyos Sidokput (`Somyos`) and Prayoon Thongchai (`Prayoon`).
Their evidence, so far as material, was this. On the night of 30 April 1990, the deceased was seated at the coffee shop at Lorong 6, Geylang in a group of four. The other three were Somyos, Song Set-Chui and Suchart Chamneon. The appellant was seated at another table with four other persons: Prayoon, Kaew Lerprasit, Riab and Lai. Beer was drunk by the occupants of both tables. At some point in time, Prayoon got up and went looking for a toilet, and on passing the deceased`s table, asked for directions. Having been given the directions he went to the toilet. Upon his return to the table, he heard the appellant muttering something like `[he] wanted to box someone`. A short while later, the appellant went up to the same table and asked for a cigarette which was given to him. The appellant then returned to his own table. Later, the appellant stood up and uttered the words: `I want to kill someone` and walked towards the deceased`s table. Prayoon`s evidence was that at that point, he saw the appellant holding two cutters with orange coloured handles, one in each hand, and raising both his hands. Prayoon did not notice anything else. As the appellant approached the deceased`s table, Somyos saw the deceased standing up with his head and body turning in the direction of the appellant. Somyos was not sure whether the appellant had two knives but was positive that he had an orange coloured knife in his hand with its blade extended. Thereafter, Somyos saw the deceased holding his neck and the appellant running off. The deceased was bleeding at his neck and he was assisted by Somyos and his friends. Later, an ambulance arrived and Somyos accompanied the deceased to hospital where the deceased succumbed to his injury.

The oral evidence of Prayoon and Somyos was corroborated by the depositional statements taken from Suchart Chamneon, Song Set-Chui and Kaew Lerprasit.
These witnesses could not be traced despite efforts by the police. Their statements were admitted under s 33 of the Evidence Act (Cap 97, 1990 Ed); however, the trial judge placed little weight on them as cross-examination of these witnesses was not available to the defence.

Evidence was given by Prof Chao Tzee Cheng, the forensic pathologist, on the nature of the wound inflicted on the deceased.
According to Prof Chao, the fatal wound was a slightly slanting slash wound at the lower part of the front of the neck, about 13 cm long with a clean-cut edge, and completely cut the trachea and the right external jugular vein at the level of the thyroid. Such a wound could be caused by the cutter produced in court. He opined that considerable force was necessary to inflict the wound and the wound was one sufficient in the ordinary course of nature to cause death, and that from the size and nature of the wound it was unlikely to be accidental.

In his cautioned statement made pursuant to s 122(6) of the Criminal Procedure Code (Cap 68) the appellant admitted slashing the deceased.
He said:

I did slash him with a knife in self-defence because by the way he looked at me from the other table where he was sitting, I believe that he and his friends who were seated together with him would attack me. So I took the opportunity to attack him first. Deceased had stood up and wanted to attack me. Two of the deceased`s friends also stood up and walked behind me. That is why I attacked the deceased first before he and his two friends could attack me.



The voluntariness of this statement was not disputed, and the statement was admitted in evidence.


At the trial, counsel for the appellant sought to impeach the credit of Prayoon by showing that what he said in evidence was at variance with his depositional statement made before the examining magistrate.
The trial judge considered in detail the discrepancies between the evidence of Prayoon and his depositional statement and came to the conclusion that they did not affect the sub-structure of Prayoon`s evidence. He accepted Prayoon`s evidence relating to the material aspects of the case; he found that Prayoon was speaking the truth and accepted Prayoon`s account of what transpired that night, which according to the trial judge was not dissimilar to that given by the appellant.

The appellant`s evidence at the trial was this.
On that day, 30 April 1990, between 12 noon and 6pm, he...

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5 cases
  • Kwang Boon Keong Peter v Public Prosecutor
    • Singapore
    • High Court (Singapore)
    • 30 April 1998
    ...limited purpose, ie to impeach his credit, and not as substantive evidence of the contents thereof. In the later case of Ukthunthod v PP [1994] 1 SLR 225 , LP Thean JA clarified his pronouncement in Somwang quoted above. His Honour made two observations. First, the passage was obiter dictum......
  • Garmaz s/o Pakhar and Another v Public Prosecutor
    • Singapore
    • High Court (Singapore)
    • 12 October 1995
    ... ... From my perusal of the respective petitions of appeal, it is not clear that the above ground has been raised at all. In any case, I am not persuaded that it merits any real concern. In a recent decision of the Court of Appeal, Foong Seow Ngiu & O, the position hinted at in Ukthunthod was clarified. Section 147(3) EA could be used to admit the previous inconsistent statement of a witness. Had the district judge done so, Tan would have become the primary witness for the prosecution, and not Leong. The effect would be that the prosecution case would have been fraught with ... ...
  • Kwang Boon Keong Peter v Public Prosecutor
    • Singapore
    • High Court (Singapore)
    • 30 April 1998
    ...limited purpose, ie to impeach his credit, and not as substantive evidence of the contents thereof. In the later case of Ukthunthod v PP [1994] 1 SLR 225 , LP Thean JA clarified his pronouncement in Somwang quoted above. His Honour made two observations. First, the passage was obiter dictum......
  • Lee Lum Sheun v Public Prosecutor
    • Singapore
    • Court of Appeal (Singapore)
    • 6 May 1994
    ... ... In this submission, counsel relied on Somwang Phatthanasaeng v PP 2 which seemed to say that such statements should only be taken as evidence of the unreliability of a witness. Regardless of whether this submission was correctly founded in law (see Ukthunthod v PP ) it was clear to us that the learned judicial commissioner in this case did not take this statement as evidence of the truth of its contents. In fact, he said in his judgment: `I allowed the prosecution`s application to impeach the accused`s credit ... I understood such an application was for ... ...
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