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Public Prosecutor v Cheng Tai Peng [2012] SGDC 104
Suit No Decision Date Court Coram Counsel :MCN No. 130 of 2011 :30 March 2012 :District Court :Roy Grenville Neighbour :Davyd Chong, Deputy Public Prosecutor for the Public Prosecutor; Appellant in Person

30 March 2012 District Judge Roy Grenville Neighbour: 1 The appellant is the accused. The appellant claimed trial to a charge of voluntary causing hurt to one Chua Teck Seng (“the victim”). On 3 April ’10 at about 2.40 p.m., the appellant slapped and punched the victim in the face and also kicked him whilst travelling on board a MRT train proceeding from Bukit Batok MRT railway station to Choa Chu Kang MRT station. 2 At the conclusion of the trial the appellant was found guilty and convicted on the charge. Dissatisfied with the conviction the appellant lodged this appeal. FACTS 3 At the trial the prosecution adduced evidence from the victim who stated that on 3 April ’10 sometime past

2.00 pm., he took the SMRT train at Chinatown. Thereafter, he changed trains at Jurong East intending to alight at Choa Chu Kang station. Whilst on the train bound for Choa Chu Kang, the victim stood in front of a seated female passenger. When the train was about to arrive at Bukit Gombak, the female passenger, from her body language, gave the impression to the victim and the appellant that she was going to vacate her seat. At this juncture, the appellant who was standing beside the victim pushed the victim aside with the obvious intention of occupying the seat the moment the female passenger got up to leave. Another passenger, Lim Joo Hee (“Lim”) seated opposite testified that he saw the appellant and the victim standing beside each other and there was body contact between them. He heard the victim say to the appellant “you should excuse me when you see me moving forward to find a seat.” The victim was also heard to remark “Young man, how can you push an old man like that”, the appellant retorted “So what if you are an old man?” Does an old man have a golden tablet?”. The victim immediately understood the appellant’s cultural reference to the golden tablet to mean that those given the tablet by the Emperor during the period of the dynasties in China, are protected. In present day context, the victim understood the reference to “the golden tablet” to mean that he should be accorded respect because of his age. 4 Then, quite suddenly and forcefully, the appellant slapped the victim on the face over the left ear. The

appellant also hit the victim on the eye and nose. When another passenger held the appellant to prevent the appellant from further assaulting the victim, the appellant was heard to say “You had better let go, otherwise I would hit you too”. Immediately the victim backed away from the appellant in fear of being hit again. The appellant then advanced forward threatening to assault the victim. According to the victim, the appellant looked very fierce. The victim was very frightened. When he victim retreated to another part of the railway carriage, the appellant went and occupied the seat the female passenger vacated. 5 Shortly, when the appellant noticed the victim looking at him the appellant retorted “You still want?” Thereupon, the appellant left his seat, went up to the victim and began assaulting the victim again by kicking and punching him. 6 This incident was also witnessed by Grace Yaw Chue Yan (“Grace”) a 2nd year National University of

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Singapore (“NUS”) undergraduate. Grace testified that she saw the appellant hitting the victim rather mercilessly while the victim in all his actions, tried to defend himself. Of this she had no doubt. She saw the appellant punching the victim on the face. She also saw a young man intervene to stop the appellant assaulting the victim. Thereafter, Grace saw the appellant turn his attention to the victim once again. She saw the appellant again raining blows on the victim and also kicking the victim heartlessly. When she realized that other commuters in the train were doing nothing to stop the appellant’s attack on the victim, she pressed the emergency stop button on the train to alert SMRT staff of the incident. 7 Besides, Grace witnessing the incident, Lim also saw the appellant assaulting the victim on the train. He too,

saw the appellant first slap the victim on the cheek before punching the victim’s face. He also saw a young man intervene to stop the appellant from further assaulting the victim. After an exchange of words with the appellant, the young man, who was in a group, left the train when it stopped at Bukit Gombak. Lim further testified that when the train proceeded to Choa Chu Kang MRT station, he saw the appellant go toward the victim and assault the victim again by punching the victim several times. However, he could not recall whether or not the appellant kicked the victim. He stated that the appellant was clearly the aggressor in the incident. 8 Consequently, when the train was travelling to Choa Chu Kang MRT Station, Station Manager Tan Swee Hua (“Station Manager Tan”) was informed that the emergency communication button was activated on the approaching southbound train. Together with two of his officers he immediately went to the platform to investigate. Upon boarding the train, several passengers identified the victim to him as the old man who was assualted by the appellant. Immediately, the victim and the appellant were escorted out of the train. Station Manager Tan noticed that the victim’s eyes were red. The victim and the appellant were separated and escorted from the platform to MRT offices below. While escorting the appellant, Station Manager Tan said that the appellant behaved aggressively towards him. The appellant shouted vulgarities at him and even raised his hand to hit him. When Station Manager Tan told the appellant “You want to hit me?” the appellant quickly retorted that he was not so stupid to do so with all the security cameras around. 9 It was at this juncture that off duty Police Corporal Iskhairy Bin Haron (“Cpl Iskhairy”) heard a commotion whilst walking along the platform. He volunteered to assist when saw the appellant shouting, gesticulating and behaving aggressively to Station Manager Tan. Cpl Iskhairy noticed, at that juncture, that the victim was injured on the face. The victim was bleeding from the nose, had redness in the eyes and his cheek was swollen. Subsequently, other SMRT staff came and attended to the victim and to the appellant. While waiting for the police to arrive, Cpl Iskhairy obtained the appellant’s and the victim’s personal particulars. After giving his personal particulars, the appellant left the scene before the arrival of police officers. 10 Consequently, the victim was sent to the National University Hospital (“NUH”) for a medical examination.

There, Dr Benjamin Goh (“Dr Goh”) medically examined the victim. Dr Goh stated that initially he found no bleeding in the anterior chamber of the victim’s left eye, however, when the victim was subsequently reviewed by the Ophthalmologist, some retinal bleeding was observed. In his examination of the victim, Dr Goh found a haematoma over the cartilaginous portion of the victim’s left ear with no open wound. An otoscopic examination of the ear however, revealed that the victim’s left ear drum was perforated. Dr Goh also noted that there were abrasions over the nose but no significant tenderness or septal haematoma. Dr Goh opined that all these injuries could have been caused by slaps or punches to the left side of the victim’s face. 11 At the conclusion of the prosecution’s case, I was satisfied that the prosecution had proved a prima facie case

in respect of the charge against the appellant. Accordingly, the appellant was called upon for his defence to the charge. The appellant elected to give evidence from the witness box. DEFENCE 12 The appellant stated that on 3 Apr ’10 at about 2.30 pm he boarded the SMRT train. Upon entering the

carriage, he stood holding onto the handrails. When the train was at Bukit Gombak MRT Station he looked at the reflection carriage’s window to see if there was a vacant seat or if passengers were indicating that they were about

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to leave their seats. When the train came to a stop he noticed the victim standing in the same carriage but some distance away from him. After the train left Bukit Gombak for Choa Chu Kang, he noticed a lady move forward in her seat giving him the impression that she was going to vacate her seat. He then turned 180 degrees, took a step forward and stood and facing the female passenger. When the female passenger vacated her seat and stood up, the appellant took a small step forward indicating that he would like to occupy the vacated seat. At this juncture, the victim’s right shoulder hit him hard resulting in him taking a step backwards. The appellant then moved forward and with his left shoulder hit the victim’s right shoulder with minimum force. Responding, the victim used his shoulder and arms to push him away. The appellant stood his ground and resisted. The victim told him in the Hokkien dialect “You should let the seats to an old man”. The appellant asked “Old man has a right to be funny or cheeky?” The appellant stated that the victim was bold. The he thought “How old is old?”. He estimated that the victim to be in his 40’s. The victim had no problem walking. He had no walking stick. He had a muscular build. 13 The appellant said he was annoyed that the victim used his right shoulder to push him aside. The victim used

his whole body and banged hard into him, resulting in the appellant having to lean backwards. Upon using minimum force the appellant said he pushed both the victim’s shoulders away resulting in the victim taking a step backwards. The victim retaliated by throwing a punch at his face and he managed to avoid the blow. The appellant said that the victim’s punch only brushed the tip of his nose. He believed that the victim knew how to fight. The appellant explained that he was wearing specatacles and had the victim’s punch landed on his face it could have resulted in him suffering a bleeding or broken nose. He decided to slap the victim on the left side of the face hoping that the victim will back off. However, when the victim swung another punch at his nose, he again avoided the blow by stepping backwards and slapped the victim again on the left side of his face. The victim did not back off and swung a third punch that again brushed the tip of his nose. The appellant said he returned with another slap to the left side of the victim’s face. By this time, the other passengers in the carriage moved away from them. The victim too, withdrew to where he originally stood in the carriage. As the female passenger had vacated her seat, the appellant occupied it. 14 Shortly, the victim said about five times in Hokkien “Hitting old man”. This irritated the appellant and he retorted “Are you looking for trouble?” At this juncture, the victim uttered a vulgarity in Hokkien. Stunned by what the victim had said, he got up and approached the victim. 15 Whilst approaching the victim, a young man grabbed hold of both his arms at the elbows and told him not to

pursue the matter further. In response the appellant asked if he was a police officer and if he was, to show him documents otherwise, he ought to let go of his arms. When the young man did not respond, he raised his arm as if to hit the young man. He also raised his right leg. The appellant said he did this to scare the young man into letting him go. The appellant said he had no intention to hit the young man. In response to the appellant’s actions, the young man jumped back. 16 Then he walked to the victim inquiring why he had to utter a vulgarity involving his parents. When he was

approximately 4 steps away from the victim, the victim stepped forward and very quickly and suddenly threw a punch at him. He managed to avoid the blow by leaning backwards. The blow once again brushed the tip of his nose. The appellant went forward and slapped the victim twice on the face. After the second slap the victim went down into a squatting position and showed him his senior citizen’s pass. After warning the victim not to involve his parents in the argument, the appellant returned to his seat. 17 When the train stopped at Choa Chu Kang MRT Station, the Station manager approached him. He explained

his side of the story and said that he was assaulted by the victim. Whilst being escorted, he passed by Lim who told him to watch out and that he will testify and be a witness for the victim. Subsequently, when Cpl Iskhairy came asked for his personal particulars he provided them. As he had an appointment, he decided not to wait for the arrival of the police and left after informing Station Manager Tan. Subsequently, he was contacted Inspector Kelvin Chew in connection with the incident. CONVICTION

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18 Having considered the evidence adduced at the trial, I accept that before the incident the victim and the appellant were standing beside each other on the train waiting to occupy a seat that was to be vacated by a female passenger. The appellant claimed that the incident was sparked off by the victim bumping into him. The victim stated that the appellant used his body to push him aside to occupy the seat. There is no dispute that there was body contact between the victim and the appellant. Lim heard the victim say to appellant “you should excuse me when you see me moving forward to find a seat.” It is apparent that the appellant either obstructed the victim or bumped into him intending to push him aside so that he could move ahead and occupy the seat when both of them noticed the female move to vacate her seat. The appellant admitted that he was looking at the reflection in the window panes of the carriage to ascertain whether any of the occupied seats would be vacated by passengers leaving the train. The victim said that he was standing in front of the female passenger who was about to alight the train. The appellant said he had his back to the female passenger. When he noticed her movements indicating an intention to vacate her seat, he turned 180 degrees to face her and took a step forward. It was obvious from the appellant’s conduct that he was going to rush for the seat the moment it was vacated and was unwilling to offer it to the victim. 19 The victim is a senior citizen and should be accorded the courtesy to occupy a seat if it was vacant or at least offered a seat on the train by a younger passenger. Even if the victim had bumped into the appellant in the first instance, it was clearly accidental with no intention to annoy. Had the appellant been forgiving, the incident would not have occurred. However, the appellant could not let it pass and being annoyed by the victim’s actions, retaliated by using his shoulder to hit the victim’s shoulder and it led to the incident escalating in violence. The appellant’s response by first slapping, and then punching and kicking the victim is a response clearly out of proportion to the victim’s initial bump to his shoulder. Thus, I disbelieve the appellant’s account that whilst annoyed and in an agitated state he managed to control himself to the extent that he used only “minimal force” to bump the victim back and also push him away. 20 I also disbelieve the appellant’s description of the victim to be a younger, fitter and muscular person. This

was not proved when he questioned Kelvin Chew, Cpl Iskhairy and Andy Lee Quek Joo. All three witnesses testified that the victim looked the same as he was at the time of the incident except that he had aged a little. The victim clearly did not fit the appellant’s description of him. It was apparent that the appellant by describing the victim to be a younger fitter more muscular person was doing so in order to justify his action in rushing for the seat and his subsequent callous response in assaulting the victim. 21 From the accounts provided by Grace and Lim, it was blatantly apparent that the appellant was the aggressor

in the incident. According to Grace who was traumatized by the incident, the appellant was “mercilessly raining blows on the victim”. According to her, the appellant was “intimidating, heartless and extremely brutal”. She described the victim as “battered at the time of the incident”. This was also borne out by Lim who stated that the appellant “went to really wallop” the victim. Even when he was prevented by a young male passenger from doing further harm to the victim, the appellant threatened him to assault the said passenger if he did not let him go. I also disbelieve the appellant’s account that in his aggressive and agitated state he only raised his fist and his right leg and did not assault the young male passenger. 22 I also disbelieve the appellant’s account that the victim had hurled a Hokkien vulgarity at the appellant. None

of the other witnesses heard the victim uttering vulgarities at the appellant. The victim testified that when he looked at the appellant who caught him looking, retorted “You still want?”. The appellant’s contention that the victim had hurled a vulgarity at him is clearly to justify him leaving his seat and going up to the victim to assault him a second time. 23 The appellant was observed by Grace, Lim and the victim to be fierce, aggressive and intimidating. When the appellant retorted “You still want?” before proceeding to the victim and assaulting him a second time with punches and kicks, this retort clearly reflects his defiant, brutish and indifferent behavior. 24 I have no reason to doubt the testimonies of Grace, Lim and that of the victim with regard to the incident.

Grace and Lim are independent witnesses who came forth to testify as civic minded individuals. I find nothing in

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their evidence to conclude that they have fabricated a case against the appellant. I disbelieve the appellant’s claim that he was not the aggressor in the fight and that he did not kick or punch the victim in the attack. He was clearly seen by Grace slapping, kicking and punching the victim. Lim too, saw the appellant slapping and punching the victim. It is obvious that the appellant by deliberately stating that he only slapped the victim on the face is diluting the severity of his attack on the victim. 25 It is apparent too, that the victim was utterly surprised and taken aback by the suddenness of the appellant’s

assault and all he could do in the circumstances was to defend himself and block the appellant’s slaps in the first instance and subsequent punches and kicks. The assault was to a vital part of the human body namely, the victim’s head. As a result of the assault the victim suffered several injuries namely, a perforated ear drum, subsequent retinal bleeding and abrasions over the nose. According to the medical evidence provided by Dr Benjamin Goh, all these injuries are consistent with injuries caused by punches and slaps to the victim’s face. It is noteworthy too that in the assault, the appellant was not hurt at all. 26 Accordingly, I disbelieve the appellant’s account of the incident. There is no doubt in my mind that the appellant was the aggressor in the incident and had intentionally caused the injuries to the victim. Furthermore, he admitted in his defence that he did cause hurt to the victim by slapping him on the face. In view of all the evidence adduced, I am amply satisfied that the prosecution proved beyond a reasonable doubt the charge against the appellant. Accordingly, I disbelieved the appellant’s defence. The appellant is found guilty and is convicted on the charge.

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