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Criminal Law – Abetment, Conspiracy and Common Intention

A. Abetment

Abetment is a form of inchoate liability that exists independent from the principal offence. The
accused need not personally satisfy the conditions for the offence, it only suffices if he satisfies the
AR and MR for abetment. The crime need not actually be committed for abetment either (see
explanation 3 to s 108)

The statute
Abetment of the doing of a thing.

107. A person abets the doing of a thing who –

(a) instigates any person to do that thing;

(b) engages with one or more other person or persons in any conspiracy for the doing
of that thing, if an act or illegal omission takes place in pursuance of that conspiracy,
and in order to [] the doing of that thing;

(c) intentionally aids, by any act of illegal omission, the doing of that thing.

Explanation 1.

A person who, by wilful misrepresentation, or by wilful concealment of a material fact which


he is bound to disclose, voluntarily causes or procures, or attempts to cause or procure, a
thing to be done, is said to instigate the doing of that thing.

Illustration

A, a public officer, is authorised by a warrant from a court of justice to apprehend Z. B,


knowing that fact and also that C is not Z, wilfully represents to A that C is Z, and thereby
intentionally causes A to apprehend C. Here B abets by instigation the apprehension of C.

Explanation 2.

Whoever, either prior to or at the time of the commission of an act, does anything in order
to facilitate the commission of that act, and thereby facilitates the commission thereof, is
said to aid the doing of that act.

Abettor.

108. A person abets an offence who abets either the commission of an offence, or the
commission of an act which would be an offence, if committed by a person capable by law of
committing an offence with the same intention or knowledge as that of the abettor.

Explanation 1.
The abetment of the illegal omission of an act may amount to an offence, although the
abettor may not himself be bound to do that act.

Explanation 2.

To constitute the offence of abetment, it is not necessary that the act abetted should be
committed, or that the effect requisite to constitute the offence should be caused.

Illustrations

(a) A instigates B to murder C. B refuses to do so. A is guilty of abetting B to commit murder.

(b) A instigates B to murder D. B, in pursuance of the instigation, stabs D. D recovers from the
wound. A is guilty of instigating B to commit murder.

Explanation 3.

It is not necessary that the person abetted should be capable by law of committing an
offence, or that he should have the same guilty intention or knowledge as that of the
abettor, or any guilty intention or knowledge.

Illustrations

(a) A, with a guilty intention, abets a child or a person of unsound mind to commit an act
which would be an offence if committed by a person capable by law of committing an
offence, and having the same intention as A. Here A, whether the act is committed or not, is
guilty of abetting an offence.

(b) A, with the intention of murdering Z, instigates B, a child under 7 years of age, to do an
act which causes Z’s death. B, in consequence of the abetment, does the act, and thereby
causes Z’s death. Here, though B was not capable by law of committing an offence, A is liable
to be punished in the same manner as if B had been capable by law of committing an offence
and had committed murder, and he is therefore subject to the punishment of death.

(c) A instigates B to set fire to a dwelling-house. B, in consequence of the unsoundness of his


mind, being incapable of knowing the nature of the act, or that he is doing what is wrong or
contrary to law, sets fire to the house in consequence of A’s instigation. B has committed no
offence, but A is guilty of abetting the offence of setting fire to a dwelling-house, and is liable
to the punishment provided for that offence.

(d) A, intending to cause a theft to be committed, instigates B to take property belonging to Z


out of Z’s possession. A induces B to believe that the property belongs to A. B takes the
property out of Z’s possession, in good faith believing it to be A’s property. B, acting under
this misconception, does not take dishonestly, and therefore does not commit theft. But A is
guilty of abetting theft, and is liable to the same punishment as if B had committed theft.

Explanation 4.

The abetment of an offence being an offence, the abetment of such an abetment is also an
offence.

Illustration

A instigates B to instigate C to murder Z. B accordingly instigates C to murder Z, and C


commits that offence in consequence of B’s instigation. B is liable to be punished for his
offence with the punishment for murder; and as A instigated B to commit the offence A is
also liable to the same punishment.

Explanation 5.

It is not necessary to the commission of the offence of abetment by conspiracy that the
abettor should concert the offence with the person who commits it. It is sufficient if he
engages in the conspiracy in pursuance of which the offence is committed.

Illustration

A concerts with B a plan for poisoning Z. It is agreed that A shall administer the poison. B
then explains the plan to C, mentioning that a third person is to administer the poison, but
without mentioning A’s name. C agrees to procure the poison, and procures and delivers it to
B for the purpose of its being used in the manner explained. A administers the poison; Z dies
in consequence. Here, though A and C have not conspired together, yet C has been engaged
in the conspiracy in pursuance of which Z has been murdered. C has therefore committed
the offence defined in this section, and is liable to the punishment for murder.

(i) Actus Reus of abetment

To fulfil the Actus Reus, a person must either

(a) Instigate,
(b) Conspire with, or
(c) Aid

in the commission of a crime.

(a) Instigation

Instigation requires “active suggestion, stimulation, support or encouragement” to another person.


(S Balakrishnan v PP)

This encouragement needs to be received; if the other person does not get the instigation there is
no abetment.

However, the encouragement need not be explicit or direct; mere presence can qualify as
encouragement, and whether it does so is a question of fact. (Balakrishnan) If the accused is an
authority figure or a superior officer, his presence may be of the kind that would encourage the
principal, as in Balakrishnan. Whether presence counts as instigation depends on the relationship
between the defendant and the plaintiff and other factors that influence it.

Coney
The accused was a spectator at an illegal prizefight with 100 other people. He was charged with
aiding and abetting the assault.

Held, as per Mathew J (dissenting), that his presence could have encouraged the prizefighters, as
their chief incentive to fight would be for the spectators.
Clarkson
Two soldiers entered their barracks after hearing noises, and found other soldiers raping a young
woman. They remained in the room to watch, but did nothing either to encourage or discourage
the rape.

Held that their presence encouraged the rape in fact, but their conviction was quashed as they
had no intention to encourage the rape.
Allan
The accused watched a fight, while secretly intending to step in if his friends were losing.

Held that mere intention to encourage would not suffice to found abetment; there needs to be
active encouragement. In this situation, mere presence did not count as abetment.

S Balakrishnan v PP
The accused was the course commander of the training, which involved trainees getting dunked.
Two trainees died as a result of the dunking, and the accused was charged with abetting the acts.

Held that he instigated by his mere presence. He was an authority figure, and his presence
signalled that his instructions be carried out and his support and encouragement of their actions,
which may have stimulated them to greater heights.

(b) Conspiracy

There are two elements to this limb:

(1) There must have been an agreement between two or more people,
(2) An act or illegal omission was committed in pursuance of the offense

Note that conspiracy in abetment is different from criminal conspiracy under s 120A, it requires that
a step be taken in furtherance of the offense (as opposed to just a mere agreement under s 120A)

Agreement

There must have been an agreement between two or more persons (including the defendant) that if
successfully carried out would result in the commission of an offense.

They do not need to know everyone in the conspiracy to be liable for abetting the crime (see
Explanation 5 to s 108)

Lee Yuen Hong v PP


The defendant and the principal (E) were employees of the same employer. They collected money
on behalf of their employer. E then lent the defendant part of the money, thereby committing
criminal breach of trust. The defendant was charged with abetting the criminal breach of trust.
Held that the defendant did not abet the criminal breach of trust, as there was no agreement that
could ground a finding of conspiracy. They did not agree to deprive their employer of the money,
and in fact the defendant treated the borrowed money as a personal loan from him.

(c) Aid

The definition of aiding is given in Explanation 2 to s 107, and is the provision of assistance or help,
something that goes toward the commission of the offence. It must be received; the accused must
have actually aided the principal, however the principal need not know of his aid.

An illegal omission can count as aiding (S Balakrishnan v PP)

Whang Sung Lin v PP


The principal wanted to find a kidney for an illegal organ transplant. The accused put him in touch
with the second defendant who acted as a paid finder for the donor.

Held that the accused was guilty of abetment by aiding – by passing the phone number to the
principal he provided information and introduction that enabled him to carry out the offence.

S Balakrishnan v PP
One of the accused was a warrant officer who supervised the dunking. He was charged with aiding
the offence by failing to stop the dunking which led to the deaths of the victims.

Held that he was guilty of abetment by aiding. His omission was illegal as it was in breach of his
basic duty as a course commander to ensure safety and discipline, and thus he was taken to have
aided in the commission of the offence by failing to intervene.

(ii) Mens Rea of Abetment

The accused must intend his own contribution (the abetment) and must know the essential nature
of the facts which make the act an offence. (PP v Datuk Tan Cheng Swee & Ors)

(a) The intention to instigate / conspire / aid

There is no requirement that the accused intend the crime that is eventually carried out; it only
suffices if he intends the abetment – the encouragement, agreement or aid. Such intention is a
question of fact derived from the particular circumstances at the time. (S Balakrishnan v PP)

Where there are two or more crimes committed, the one that is abetted is the one that the accused
has the dominant intention to abet. It will not suffice if a person merely knows or has reason to
believe that the abetment might lead to the commission of an offence – it would not be the
dominant intention to abet that crime. (Daw Aye Aye Mu v PP)

However, note the suggestion in obiter in PP v Hendricks Glen Conleth, where it suggests that mere
negligence might fulfil the mens rea for abetment. This should not be followed, as it may extend
liability for abetment too far to people who did not intentionally abet a crime (after all, it cannot be
said that someone could be intentionally negligent as such)

(b) Knowledge that the abetted act is an offence


The requirement for knowledge is stated in PP v Datuk Tan Cheng Swee and also stated in PP v Koh
Peng Kiat. It only suffices that the defendant knows the character of the principal’s actions, and not
necessarily the precise details. (Sinniah Pillay v PP)

Knowledge would include wilful blindness. (Bachoo Mohan Singh v PP)

Sinniah Pillay v PP
The accused conspired with two other people to inflict grevious hurt on the victim. The attack was
carried out by the two others with formic acid, which proved fatal to the victim. The accused
claimed he did not know that they were going to use acid in the attack.

Held (while rejecting the accused’s claim on the facts) that the precise nature of the crime need
not be known, only the broad character of the actions. The accused conspired to cause grevious
hurt, and left the means entirely up to his co-conspirators – it was within the scope of their
intention to send him to the hospital.

R v Bainbridge
The accused supplied oxygen-cutting equipment to the principal, who used it to break into a bank.
He suspected that it would be used for some illegal purpose, but did not know that it would be
used to break into a bank.

Held that the accused’s knowledge that he would be aiding in some illegal venture was insufficient
and that he lacked the mens rea for abetment. However, it would suffice that he knew the
equipment was going to be used for breaking and entering, and not the precise location or that it
was going to be a bank robbery.

(iii) Liability for the principal need not be established for abetment

As per explanation 3 to s 108, abetment can still be found even if the principal has not carried out
the crime abetted, or the principal lacks culpability by reason of lacking mens rea or having a
defence.

See also Explanation 1 (f) of s 300; abetting a provoked person to murder would get you charged
with abetment of murder, even though the principal’s crime would be downgraded to culpable
homicide since he could plead the partial defence of provocation.

R v Cogan and Leak


The accused brought the principal back to his house, where he instigated him to rape his wife. The
principal mistakenly believed that she had consented, when she had not.

Held that although the principal was innocent because of a honest but mistaken belief that she
was consenting (lack of MR), the accused was liable for abetting the rape, even though the
principal was not liable.

(iv) One can abet an abettor

As the abetment of a crime is an offence, the abetment of an abetment of a crime is also an offence,
and so on. This may introduce potentially far-reaching liability for abettors which may be very far
removed from the crime.

(v) One can abet a crime even when he could not have personally committed it
This is found in s 108 and Explanation 1. Take for example s 375 rape, which may only be done by a
man against a woman, however a woman can be found guilty of abetting rape even if she herself
could not have committed it.

(vi) An act is not abetment if the statute itself purports to protect the abettor?***

This is an old common-law exception and it is unclear whether it forms part of Singapore case law.

R v Tyrell
The accused was below 16 years old, and was charged with abetting the principal to have unlawful
sexual intercourse with her. She had consented – it was not rape, but by allowing it she was aiding
and abetting the statutory crime.

Held that the statute which contained the crime was enacted for the benefit of the accused, and
she could not be prosecuted under that statute as it was meant to protect her.

(vii) Divergence by the principal from the act that the accused intends to abet

When the accused abets an act, but the principal goes off and commits another act in pursuance of
that abetment or the abetted act has unintended consequences, he can still be found liable for
abetting the principal’s act under ss 111 and 113. This pushes abetment to a form of secondary
liability for the principal’s wrongful act by making the abettor liable for the likely consequences of
his abetment.

The abettor would be held liable if he subjectively knew that the separate act / unintended effect
was a likely consequence of the abetment. (Lee Chez Kee v PP)

However note the divergence from the Indian position – that the requirement under 111 was that it
be objectively likely but under 113 the likelihood had to be subjectively known. This may not be
coherent with the plain wording of the statute; nonetheless the similarity between the two sections
would make it inconsistent to insist on different standards for them (as brought up in Lee Chez Kee)
B. Conspiracy

Conspiracy is another inchoate offence found within ss 120A and 120B of the Penal Code. It punishes
an agreement by two or more persons to commit a criminal act, regardless of whether the criminal
act is actually done or is actually possible to be done.

The statute

Definition of criminal conspiracy.

120A. —(1) When two or more persons agree to do, or cause to be done —

(a) an illegal act; or

(b) an act, which is not illegal, by illegal means,

such an agreement is designated a criminal conspiracy:

Provided that no agreement except an agreement to commit an offence shall amount to a


criminal conspiracy unless some act besides the agreement is done by one or more parties to
such agreement in pursuance thereof.

Explanation.

It is immaterial whether the illegal act is the ultimate object of such agreement, or is merely
incidental to that object.

(2) A person may be a party to a criminal conspiracy notwithstanding the existence of facts
of which he is unaware which make the commission of the illegal act, or the act, which is not
illegal, by illegal means, impossible.

Punishment of criminal conspiracy

120B. Whoever is a party to a criminal conspiracy to commit an offence shall, where no


express provision is made in this Code for the punishment of such a conspiracy, be punished
in the same manner as if he had abetted such offence.

The elements of conspiracy are an agreement to carry out the offense or any other unlawful act, and
an intention that the agreement be carried out.

(i) Agreement

There must be an agreement between two or more persons, and there must be a meeting of the
minds, rather than just a coincidence of intentions. The parties need not know about each other or
meet face to face (Ang Ser Kuang v PP), and they can join the conspiracy at any time.

R v Peters and Parfitts


Both accused were convicted of manslaughter after they attacked the same man in a parking lot.
Both of them hit him at the same time, but arrived independently.
Held that they did not form a joint enterprise as they had no common intention – they had the
same object but did not act in accordance to a pre-arranged plan.

(ii) Unlawful act

An unlawful act can be a civil law wrong, even if it is not a crime, as per s 43 and s 120A.

(iii) Intention that the agreement be carried out

It is not enough that an agreement to perpetrate an unlawful act has been formed; at least 2 or
more parties must intend to carry out the agreement to form a criminal conspiracy. (Kannan s/o
Kunjiraman v PP)

The reason why the courts require that the defendant intend to contribute to an agreement is to
avoid imposing liability on others who merely have knowledge or consent of the criminal scheme.
(Lau Song Seng v PP) -

Kannan s/o Kunjiraman v PP


The three accused all entered into an agreement to bribe the Singaporean national team
goalkeeper to let in some goals. Although the first accused paid the rest over $85,000 and thought
the agreement was carried out, the two other accused never approached the goalkeeper.

Held that there needed to be an intention to carry out the agreement; merely pretending to
intend to carry out the agreement would not suffice. Only the first accused intended to carry out
the agreement, and there was no conspiracy as such.

(iv) Impossibility

Factual impossibility is not a bar to liability – the act need not actually be possible to carry out, it will
only suffice that there was an agreement to perpetrate the offence in question. (see s 120A(2))

Emperor v Shankaraya Gurushiddhiyya Hiremath


The two conspirators conspired to kill someone with witchcraft.

Held that it did not matter if the exact means by which the offence is committed is not well-
defined, or that the means were not likely to prove, and did not in fact prove effective. It would
still be regarded as a criminal conspiracy and they would be liable as such.
C. Common Intention

Common intention is a form of secondary liability found with s 34 of the Penal Code. When two or
more people have a common intention to commit a crime, the accused can be held liable for any act
done in furtherance of that common intention, even if he did not personally carry out the offence.

The statute
Each of several persons liable for an act done by all, in like manner as if done by him alone

34. When a criminal act is done by several persons, in furtherance of the common intention of
all, each of such persons is liable for that act in the same manner as if the act were done by
him alone.

Elements of liability

(i) A criminal act


(ii) A common intention
(iii) Participation in the doing of the act
(iv) Act done is in furtherance of the common intention

(i) A criminal act

The act in question refers to the unity of acts done by the group, which must include an offence
within any of the acts committed.

(ii) Common intention

There must be a common purpose, which may arise pursuant to a pre-arranged plan, or formed
spontaneously on the spot (Lee Chez Kee). However, there must be a joint enterprise – it does not
suffice if two people have the same intention at the same time. (see R v Peters and Parfitt)

The common intention must be to commit the very crime which the accused is charged with. An
offence done in furtherance of the common intention must have been part of the common intention
in the first place. (Daniel Vijay v PP)

Note that this requirement overrules the test laid out in Lee Chez Kee – that the possibility the act
may have been carried out needs to have been subjectively known to the accused.

(iii) Participation

A mere agreement between persons would not fall within the scope of common intention (even
though it suffices for the offence of criminal conspiracy under s 120A) – the accused must have
participated in the commission of a crime. (Lee Chez Kee)

Presence can be sufficient to imply participation (Chew Cheng Lye v R), but physical presence is no
longer a strict requirement, given that people can remotely participate in crimes with the advent of
handphones and other forms of modern technology (Sabarudin bin Non v PP, affirmed in Lee Chez
Kee)

Participation can arise spontaneously, that is, even if the pre-arranged plan did not include this
crime, an accused is deemed to have participated in the carrying out of the crime if he participated
in the divergent act.
(iv) In furtherance of the common intention

An act done in furtherance of the common intention needs to have been in the scope of the
common intention itself, otherwise it would not be done in furtherance of it. (Daniel Vijay)

This overrules the old test laid down in Lee Chez Kee, that an act not part of the common intention
can be done in furtherance of the common intention had the accused have subjective knowledge
that it was likely to be committed.

However, following Daniel Vijay, the exact scope of the common intention is unclear, especially in
relation to s 300(c) murder. There are three possible interpretations of the common intention giving
rise to liability:

(I) Accused must intend to kill – s 300(a) MR – (CWC’s view)


(II) Accused must intend an injury and know that the intended injury is SITOCON
(III) Accused must intend an injury

The view in (II) is probably the best interpretation of common intention; however this raises a
concern that the intention is not actually common following that, which may conflict with the
definition given in Daniel Vijay.

(v) The ‘twin crime’ situation – rationale behind common intention

The ambiguous wording of s 34 has given rise to differing interpretations in relation to ‘twin crime’
situations. This is when there is a common intention to commit a crime (armed robbery, in most
situations) and a member of the group goes off and commits another crime (murder, for example).
Should the others be held liable for this, even when they did not share a common intention to
commit murder?

The previous stance was that he should be held liable if he had subjective knowledge that it was
likely that the crime would be committed. (Lee Chez Kee). However, this was overruled in Daniel
Vijay, where it was held that he needed a common intention to commit murder before he can be
held liable.

Singapore’s stance can be said to be an anomaly; no other common law jurisdiction (besides the UK)
has taken this interpretation. Both approaches are driven by different considerations: deterrence
and consistency (for the Lee Chez Kee approach), and fairness and mercy (for the Daniel Vijay
approach)

(a) The Lee Chez Kee approach

Consistency

The Lee Chez Kee approach is consistent with other related provisions in the Penal Code for
secondary liability – s 396 (gang robbery) and ss 111 and 113 (abetment), the latter which requires
subjective knowledge, the former only requiring a common intention to commit robbery.

Deterrence

An accused is taken to have assumed such risks as a result of entering into a joint enterprise, and it is
right to punish them for those risks to deter the formation of such joint enterprises and the
commission of such crimes. (See A.P. Simester, “The Mental Element in Complicity” (2006) 122 LQR
578 at 599, cited with approval in Lee Chez Kee)
“Joint enterprise doctrines come into their own, however, in respect of offences incidental to the
common purpose. By forming a joint enterprise, S [the secondary offender] signs up to its goal. In so
doing, she accepts responsibility for the wrongs perpetrated in realising that goal, even though they
be done by someone else. Her joining with P [the primary offender] in a common purpose means that
she is no longer fully in command of how the purpose is achieved. Given that P is an autonomous
agent, S cannot control the precise manner in which P acts. Yet her commitment to the common
purpose implies an acceptance of the choices and actions that are taken by P in the course of realising
that purpose.

Her responsibility for incidental offences is not unlimited: S cannot be said to accept the risk of wrongs
by P that she does not foresee, or which depart radically from their shared enterprise, and joint
enterprise liability rightly does not extend to such cases. Within these limitations, however, the
execution of the common purpose – including its foreseen attendant risks – is a package deal. Just as
risks attend the pursuit of the common purpose, an assumption of those risks flows from S’s
subscription to that purpose.”

(b) The Daniel Vijay approach

Justice and Mercy

At the time when Daniel Vijay was decided, murder still carried the mandatory death penalty for all
limbs. (s 302 was reformed in 2012 to give judges the sentencing discretion between murder or life
imprisonment for ss 300(b), (c) and (d))

Thus, an application of the Lee Chez Kee test would extend liability for murder beyond the person who
committed it, and would result in the death penalty being extended to potentially all members of the
joint enterprise. This would be an extremely onerous result that would justify a departure from
precedent.

(c) Problems with the Daniel Vijay approach

Exact scope of common intention not defined

It is not clear what the common intention must be to attract liability, especially in the context of s
300(c). (see the above discussion, the later cases of Kho Jabing and Micheal Anak Garing do not shed
much light on this distinction either)

Inconsistency with other provisions

If the common intention was to commit robbery, and the joint enterprise consisted of 5 people or
more, all of them would be liable for murder had it happened during the robbery. The Daniel Vijay
approach introduces a seeming paradox – 2 to 4 people might not be liable for murder in the same
circumstances, but 5 or more people would.

Furthermore, the secondary liability provisions of abetment (ss 111 and 113) only require subjective
knowledge that the crime is likely to be committed as a consequence of the abetment. Even if common
intention was not made out, it is likely that the accused would be caught under abetment of murder,
which carries the same punishment. (as was the case in Lee Chez Kee)

Removal of mandatory death penalty

If one of the rationales behind the Daniel Vijay decision was to avoid the operation of the mandatory
death penalty, it would be significantly weakened in light of the removal of the mandatory death
penalty in 2013. The sentencing discretion can and has been used to impose lesser sentences on
parties to the joint enterprise who did not carry out the crime itself, and in respect of this the extension
of liability in Lee Chez Kee would not place too onerous a burden on accused. (Micheal Anak Garing)

Lee Chez Kee v PP


The accused formed a joint enterprise with two others and planned to threaten the victim with a
knife and tie him up, and rob him. He punched and stabbed the victim, and tied him up with the
help of another member of the enterprise. The victim subsequently died of asphyxiation from an
electric cord.

Held that he was guilty of murder in furtherance of a common intention as he had subjective
knowledge that death was a likely consequence of the murder, despite not intending to murder
pursuant to the pre-arranged plan.

Even if a more restrictive approach on common intention was adopted (which did indeed happen
in Daniel Vijay), the accused would still be guilty of abetting murder under s 111 and 113.
(explanation (c) to s 111 is an analogue to this situation)

Daniel Vijay s/o Katherasan v PP


The two accused had formed a joint enterprise with another to rob the victim. The other principal
beat the victim on the head with a baseball bat in the course of the robbery, killing him. The
principal was convicted of murder under s 300(c). The two accused were charged of a common
intention to murder under s 34.

Held that they were not liable for murder under s 34, as they did not have a common intention to
murder the victim, merely to rob him. Even though they could have intended injury, it was not
shown that the injuries actually inflicted were sufficient in the ordinary course of nature to cause
death, and it could not have been said to be their common intention to inflict a s 300(c) injury.

Kho Jabing v PP
The accused was participating in armed robbery with the principal. He hit the victim first with a
metal belt buckle, and the principal hit him with a large and heavy piece of wood, killing him. The
principal was convicted of murder under s 300(c), and the accused was charged of murder in
furtherance of a common intention under s 34.

Held that the accused was not guilty of murder in furtherance of a common intention, as the
common intention was merely to do robbery with hurt and not to murder. The accused’s previous
conviction under s 34 was reversed following the decision in Daniel Vijay.

PP v Micheal Anak Garing


The accused was part of a gang that set out to commit armed robbery (the Kallang slashings). The
principal was armed with a parang and set about slashing victims to disable them before robbing
them. One of the victims died in the course of the spree of robberies committed, and the principal
was convicted of murder under s 300(c), while the accused was charged with murder in furtherance
of a common intention under s 34.

Held that the accused was guilty of murder in furtherance of a common intention under s 34,
however his sentence was reduced to life imprisonment and 24 strokes of the cane as compared to
the principal, who received the death penalty.
Common Object

Unlawful assembly
141. An assembly of 5 or more persons is designated an “unlawful assembly”, if the common object
of the persons composing that assembly is —
(a) to overawe by criminal force, or show of criminal force, the Legislative or Executive Government,
or any public servant in the exercise of the lawful power of such public servant;
(b) to resist the execution of any law, or of any legal process;
(c) to commit any offence;
(d) by means of criminal force, or show of criminal force, to any person, to take or obtain possession
of any property, or to deprive any person of the enjoyment of a right of way, or of the use of water
or other incorporeal right of which he is in possession or enjoyment, or to enforce any right or
supposed right; or
(e) by means of criminal force, or show of criminal force, to compel any person to do what he is not
legally bound to do, or to omit to do what he is legally entitled to do.
Explanation —An assembly which was not unlawful when it assembled may subsequently become
an unlawful assembly.
Being a member of an unlawful assembly
142. Whoever, being aware of facts which render any assembly an unlawful assembly, intentionally
joins that assembly, or continues in it, is said to be a member of an unlawful assembly.
Force used by one member in prosecution of common object
146. Whenever force or violence is used by an unlawful assembly or by any member thereof, in
prosecution of the common object of such assembly, every member of such assembly is guilty of
the offence of rioting.

where parties go with a common purpose to execute a common object, each and every one becomes
responsible for the acts of each and every other in execution and furtherance of their common
purpose; as the purpose is common, so must be the responsibility.

Subjective Knowledge of the gang’s common object to cause hurt by dangerous weapons (Lee Chez
Kee v Public Prosecutor [2008] 3 SLR 447)

Thongthot Yordsa-Art and Another v Public Prosecutor [2002] SGCA 33


Fact: A assembled a group to confront V, which resulted in V’s death.
Held: common object was to cause grievous hurt to V.

Distinction Between Common Object and Common Intention

Section 149 does not require proof of a pre-arranged plan and a common intention which a
prosecution involving s 34 of the Code would require. The ‘common object’ under s 149 of the Code
must not be confused with the ‘common intention’ under s 34 of the Code. Though they both deal
with what may be called ‘constructive liability’ for crime, it is important to see the distinction and the
way both sections operate.

In Barendra Kumar Ghosh v Emperor, Lord Sumner at p 7 said:

There is a difference between object and intention, for though their object is common, the intentions
of several members may differ and indeed may be similar only in the respect that they are all unlawful
while the element of participation in action which is the leading feature of s 34, is replaced in s 149,
by membership of the assembly at the time of the committing of the offence. Both sections deal with
combinations of persons who become punishable as sharers in an offence.