Low Song Chye v Public Prosecutor (MA 9240/2018/01 & 02) concerned the appeals by both the accused and Prosecution against conviction and sentence respectively. Low was a manager of a karaoke pub known as “KG Pearl”, while the victim was a hostess at the said pub. Low had been found guilty after trial in the District Court on a single charge of voluntarily causing hurt under Section 323 of the Penal Code, for slapping the victim’s face and ear as well as grabbing her neck. The incident took place on the victim’s last day of work in 2016.
According to the victim, Low had grabbed her neck and slapped her with “very great force” on the left side of her face and left ear, while warning her not to throw tantrums. Prior to the incident, there had been some disagreement over salary payable to the victim, who had then thrown some balls from a pool table. Low, on the other hand, claimed that being responsible for security at the pub, he was trying to stop the victim from throwing pool balls while customers were watching, but she had tried to hit him and even threw a pool ball at him. In the course of this melee, his hand came into contact with her cheek but with “not that great” force.
The medical report on the victim recorded that the assault had resulted in eardrum perforation and mild hearing loss. Compensation of S$800 had also been ordered by the District Judge, possibly having consideration to the medical findings that the only effective treatment for the victim’s ear conditions was a hearing aid (average lifespan of 5 years, with average cost of batteries for 1 year being S$100 and costs of hearing aid appointments being around S$251).
Low was not a first offender and had previous criminal records involving violence. Considering all the circumstances of the case, including that there was some provocation by the victim in throwing the pool balls, Justice See Kee Oon found that the harm caused in this case was “moderate”. The sentence of 12 weeks’ imprisonment imposed by the District Judge was increased to 4 months’ imprisonment, during the appeal heard on 6 June 2019. Three sentencing bands were considered by the Honourable Justice See:
|Harm (hurt caused)||Indicative sentences|
|Band 1||Low (no visible injury or minor hurt, eg. scratches and abrasions)||Fines or imprisonment of up to 4 weeks|
|Band 2||Moderate||Imprisonment of between 1 and 6 months|
|Band 3||Serious (serious injuries that are permanent or which require significant surgical procedures)||Imprisonment of between 6 months and 2 years|
This case adds to the lexicon of detailed sentencing guidelines issued by the Supreme Court in recent years, and employs the harm-culpability analytical framework to calibrating sentence for offences of assault under Section 323 Penal Code – one of the most common offences before the Courts. In announcing the formation of a Sentencing Council at the Sentencing Conference in October 2014, Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon highlighted that sentencing guidelines provided some degree of predictability and consistency, as well as ensure the full range of sentencing options is utilized by judges. However, they are not to be applied rigidly.
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