Yeo See How v Public Prosecutor

JudgeChao Hick Tin J
Judgment Date25 May 1996
Neutral Citation[1996] SGCA 39
Date25 May 1996
Subject Matters 24 Evidence Act (Cap 97, 1990 Ed),Weight of evidence,(follow title of statute: eg misuse of drugs act),Voluntariness,Whether recording of statement in question and answer format without the questions being recorded render the statement inadmissible,Whether accused has made statement voluntarily or pursuant to inducements and promises,Evidence,Admissibility,Trafficking,Statutory offences,Failure to obtain fingerprints on various items in bag,Statements,Criminal Procedure and Sentencing,Criminal Law,Controlled drugs,Failure to follow up on members of the pool -Whether failure to obtain fingerprints and follow up on evidence has affected accused's defence,Whether accused is guilty of trafficking in drugs,s 2 & s 17 Misuse of Drugs Act (Cap 185)
Docket NumberCriminal Appeal No 59 of 1995
Published date19 September 2003
Defendant CounselWong Keen Onn (Deputy Public Prosecutor)
CourtCourt of Appeal (Singapore)
Plaintiff CounselAng Sin Teck (Rajah Loo & Chandra) and Christina Goh (Christina Goh & Co)

(delivering the grounds of judgment of the court):

The appellant was convicted and sentenced to death on the following charge under the Misuse of Drugs Act (Cap 185) (MDA):

You, Yeo See How, on or about the second day of June 1995 at about 3.30pm at the first floor of Apartment Block 32 Bendemeer Road, Singapore, did traffic in a controlled drug specified in Class A of the First Schedule to the Misuse of Drugs Act, Chapter 185, to wit, by having in your possession for the purpose of trafficking one packet, 32 sachets and one straw of substance containing not less than 43.28 grams of diamorphine at the said place without authorisation under the said Act or the regulations made thereunder and by virtue of s 17 of the Misuse of Drugs Act, you have thereby committed an offence under s 5(1)(a) read with s 5(2) and punishable under s 33 of the said Act.

Two other charges of possession and consumption against him were stood down and were eventually withdrawn by the prosecution upon his conviction of the present charge.

The appellant appealed against his conviction.
We heard the appeal on 25 March 1996 and dismissed it on the conclusion of the hearing. We now give our reasons.

The prosecution`s case

Briefly, the case against the appellant was as follows. On 2 June 1995, at about 8.30am, one PC Wong together with several other police officers, were waiting in ambush for persons involved in housebreaking in the vicinity of Blocks 31, 32 and 33 of Bendemeer Road. At about 3.30pm, the appellant was seen at the ground floor landing of Block 31, carrying a brown travel bag. PC Wong trailed the appellant as the latter seemed suspicious. The appellant then started running, with PC Wong giving chase. The other officers joined in the chase. As the appellant was running, he threw his bag away at the first floor of Block 32. This was seen by one Cpl Tay who recovered the bag. The appellant was apprehended at Block 33.

Upon searching the travel bag in the presence of the appellant, the police officers discovered sachets of substance which they suspected to contain controlled drugs.
The appellant was then brought back to the Kallang Neighbourhood Police Post, where a more thorough search was conducted. The bag contained 32 sachets of a granular substance, one packet of a granular substance wrapped in a brown paper bag, a long straw also containing a granular substance, a plastic bag filled with empty sachets, a weighing scale, a normal spoon, two metal pincers, five straws, a pager, a handphone, and improvised pipes.

The Central Narcotics Bureau then took over the investigations from the police.
The investigating officer, Inspector S Krishnan, took the appellant to his place of residence and did a search. The appellant was then sent to Changi Hospital for a pre-statement medical examination. But as the appellant complained of drug withdrawal, he was warded for treatment.

The 32 sachets, the packet and the straw with substance were analysed and found to contain not less than 13.28g, 29.9g and 0.10g of diamorphine respectively, giving a total amount of 43.28g.
The spoon, pincers, straws and pipes were also found to have been stained with diamorphine. It should be mentioned that in addition to the diamorphine just mentioned, the appellant also had with him 3.8 g of opium.

The appellant was tested for consumption.
The urine analysis indicated that the appellant had 504 micrograms of morphine per 5 millilitres of urine. The analyst, Dr Lui Chi Peng, told the court that the content was on the high side. However, he could not say, there being so many variables, how severe an addict the appellant was. Another sample of urine tested was found to contain a similar concentration of morphine.

The prosecution also adduced medical evidence showing that when the appellant was admitted to Changi Hospital by one Dr Kelly Loke he had mild withdrawal symptoms such as nausea, chills and rigors.
Methadone, a heroine substitute, was subsequently prescribed by one Dr Khoo. In the course of his stay, he was observed primarily by one Dr Goh, who had also put the appellant on intravenous drip. Dr Goh said that during that period she did not look for specific signs of withdrawal. On 8 June, one Dr Leow Kee Fong of the Changi Prison Hospital examined the appellant but found no signs of withdrawal symptoms although the appellant complained of cold sensation and body aches. Testifying also as an expert witness, Dr Leow said that, based on the observations of the other doctors, the appellant had only mild heroin withdrawal at admission.

Reliance was placed by the prosecution on a long statement recorded on 13 June 1995.
The voluntariness of this statement was challenged. Though other statements were also recorded from the appellant, those were not sought to be adduced by the prosecution.

The voir dire

The prosecution`s version

The investigating officer and the interpreter testified that the statement was made without any threat, inducement or promise. The investigating officer said that the appellant appeared normal. The statement was recorded as a narrative though a series of questions was asked.

The defence version

The appellant contended that after his arrest on 2 June, he pleaded with the investigating officer for a lenient charge to be preferred against him.
The investigating officer replied that they would be able to speak about it after the statement had been completed, and that he would try his best to speak to the DPP so that the latter could raise it court. A request for a visit by his family was also met by a similar response. The appellant also claimed to be suffering from withdrawal symptoms and gastric pain after his arrest. As a result he was warded from 3 June to 7 June 1995 at Changi Hospital and subsequently at Changi Prison Hospital from 7 June to 8 June 1995.

On 8 June, while two statements were recorded from him, the earlier requests were repeated.
By then he desparately wanted cigarette. The same reply was given by the investigating officer. Two days later on 10 June, the requests were made once more. When the appellant pointed out that a statement had already been recorded from him, he was told that there was another statement to be recorded. On 12 June, while he was being taken for a search of both his registered residential address and the address at which he actually resided at the time, he repeated his requests. Again, similar answers were given.

The same thing happened on 13 June 1995, both before and during the recording of the statement.
The recording was done by way of questions and answers. The appellant alleged that that statement was given as he was told that his requests would be acceded to and that he would only be imprisoned for 20 years. During the recording of the statement, which took place between 2.20pm and 5.40pm, the appellant felt cold and had gastric pain. The interpreter adjusted the airconditioning, but the appellant still felt cold. However, as regards his gastric pain, he was told that there was no medicine. The appellant also asked for food, but was told that it would be given after the recording had been concluded. At the conclusion of the statement he was given a drink, a slice of bread and cigarettes. He was also allowed to arrange for a visit by his family for the next day. He had another visit on 15 June.

The contention of the appellant was that there were promises and inducements which led to the volunteering of the statement.
There was also oppression in that no medicine was given for his gastric pain, and that the statement was brought forth by unrecorded questions.

The decision of the judge on the voir dire

The learned judge noted that admissibility was governed by s 24 of the Evidence Act (Cap 97, 1990 Ed), citing Tan Boon Tat v PP [1992] 2 SLR 1.
The cases DPP v Ping Lin [1975] AC 574; [1975] 3 All ER 175, and Seow Choon Meng v PP [1994] 2 SLR 853, Chow Eng v PP [1924] 4 FMSLR 287 were also cited by the judge on the issue of oppression.

In his findings, the learned judge found that the appellant`s allegations were exaggerations.
The replies given by the investigating officer were not anything more than a courteous response. The judge was convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that no inducement or promise was held out to the appellant. He noted that the requests of the appellant for food, cigarettes and visits by relatives were acceded to after the statement had been recorded, and that it was not pursuant to any inducement held out earlier. Furthermore, the judge did not think that the alleged vague promise by the investigating officer could have made the appellant give the statement, particularly in view of the fact that he was facing a capital charge. He also did not think that there was anything wrong in the recording being done by way of questions and answers where only the answers were recorded. The learned judge therefore admitted the statement.

The statement

The relevant portions of the statement read as follows:

Around April 1995, I started smoking heroin mainly to ease my gastric pains. Soon I became heavily addicted to heroin and was smoking 8 gm sachet of heroin daily. My rate of consumption prior to my arrest increased to about two to three 8 gm sachets per day ...

When I first relapsed to heroin, I used to buy heroin in sachets at $140 per sachet from a male Malaysian known to me as Ah Siah at Lavender MRT station ... I again met him in April 1995 at Bendemeer Rd Hawkers Centre where he gave me free heroin for my own consumption. Once I got hooked to heroin, Ah Siah started to charge me for the heroin.

Ah Siah suggested that he would charge me $100 per sachet for a batch of ten sachets and $90 per sachet for a batch of 20 sachets if I decided to buy in bulk. As such, I went to look for my addict friends and they agreed to share in the purchase of the heroin in bulk. Altogether, I managed to get five addict friends who are known to me as David,

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