23 November 2017
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Supreme Court Note: PP v Ong Say Kiat [2017] SGHC 221 (observations on criminal revisionary and appellate jurisdictions and criminal appeal procedure)

Supreme Court Note
02 Nov 2017

The High Court has made some observations on its criminal revisionary and appellate jurisdictions and the criminal appeal procedure. In this case, the respondent pleaded guilty on 4 December 2014 to a single charge of theft in dwelling with common intention under s 380 read with s 34 of the Penal Code (Cap 224, 2008 Rev Ed). On 31 December 2014, the District Judge sentenced the respondent to five years’ corrective training (“CT”). Criminal Revision No 7 of 2017 (“CR 7”) was filed by the Prosecution on 4 May 2017. By it, the Prosecution sought to persuade the court to exercise its revisionary powers to, inter alia, set aside the sentence of five years’ CT that had earlier been imposed on the respondent and impose, in its place, a sentence of at least nine months’ imprisonment backdated to the date of the respondent’s remand. This was based primarily on the decision in Sim Yeow Kee v Public Prosecutor and another appeal [2016] 5 SLR 936 (“Sim Yeow Kee”). However, when the matter was heard on 20 July 2017, the Prosecution applied to withdraw CR 7.

The High Court granted the Prosecution leave to withdraw CR 7. However, the court held that the present case called for the exercise of the court’s appellate jurisdiction. The thresholds for the exercise of the court’s revisionary jurisdiction, on the one hand, and its appellate jurisdiction, on the other, were plainly different. There were ample grounds for appellate intervention in the present case. The factual and legal substratum that underlay the new sentencing approach to CT that was laid down in Sim Yeow Kee was already existent at the time of the respondent’s sentencing. Seen from this perspective, and notwithstanding the then-prevailing jurisprudence, the sentence of five years’ CT that had earlier been imposed on the respondent was wrong in law and manifestly excessive. Moreover, the Prosecution did not contest that an appeal brought by the respondent should be allowed.

In addition, the High Court held that its appellate jurisdiction could be exercised at the hearing on 20 July 2017. The court granted the respondent leave to appeal out of time. There was nothing which precluded an application for an extension of time to appeal being brought by way of an oral application, at least in exceptional circumstances such as the present. Furthermore, the respondent should be granted an extension of time to appeal against the sentence of five years’ CT that had earlier been imposed on him, and the Prosecution also made it clear that it was not objecting to the respondent filing an appeal out of time. The court also made an order under s 380 of the Criminal Procedure Code (Cap 68, 2012 Rev Ed) (“CPC”) dispensing with the need for the respondent to file any other documents and, for good order, also extended this to cover any written submissions which might ordinarily be filed. Section 380 of the CPC allowed the procedural requirements in the CPC (including, especially, the filing of a notice of appeal and a petition of appeal) to be dispensed with.

The High Court treated the appeal as having been heard and allowed the appeal. Accordingly, the court set aside the sentence of five years’ CT that had earlier been imposed on the respondent and sentenced him instead to a term of imprisonment of time already served.

At Public Prosecutor v Ong Say Kiat [2017] SGHC 221, paras 27, 32, 34, 37, 41, 43, 44, 46, 49 and 50. To view the judgment, click <here>.

Disclaimer: The above is provided to assist in the understanding of the Court’s judgment. It is not intended to be a substitute for the reasons of the Court. The full judgment of the Court is the only authoritative document.