Case Summaries

Public Prosecutor v Satesh s/o Navarlan [2019] SGHC 119

SUPREME COURT OF SINGAPORE

8 May 2019

Case summary

Public Prosecutor v Satesh s/o Navarlan [2019] SGHC 119
Criminal Appeal No. 9349 of 2018

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Decision of the High Court (delivered by Justice of Appeal Tay Yong Kwang):

Outcome: High Court allows prosecution’s appeal on sentence against decision of the lower court in a case involving family violence.

1            This was an appeal against the sentence ordered by the lower court in a case involving family violence. The Respondent had pleaded guilty to two charges, and the District Judge (“DJ”) imposed on him a Short Detention Order of 14 days and a Day Reporting Order of nine months. The Prosecution’s appeal against that decision was allowed. The High Court set aside the sentence below and imposed a global sentence of five weeks’ imprisonment: [1].

Facts/ The material facts

2            The Respondent was a 34-year-old Singaporean at the time of the offences. The victim is his wife, who was residing with him at the material time of the offences. In the court below, he pleaded guilty to one charge under s 65(8) of the Women’s Charter (Cap 353, 2009 Rev Ed) for contravening a Personal Protection Order (“PPO”), and one charge under s 323 of the Penal Code (Cap 224, 2008 Rev Ed) for voluntarily causing hurt to his wife. One other charge under s 65(8) of the Women’s Charter and one other charge under s 323 of the Penal Code were taken into consideration for the purpose of sentencing. At the time of the offences, the Respondent was subject to a PPO which restrained the Respondent from using family violence against his wife: [2].

3            The offences took place in the home of the Respondent and his wife. In the early morning of 1 February 2018, the Respondent returned home, intoxicated. The wife was in the bedroom with their five-year-old daughter when the Respondent entered at about 2.30am and grabbed the blanket away from his wife. He grabbed her right leg and bit it: [3].

4            About 10 minutes later, the wife asked the Respondent to wash up because he smelled of alcohol. The Respondent responded strangely by rolling around on the bed. Worried for their daughter, the wife brought her out of the bedroom into the living room. The Respondent followed them out and an argument ensued between the Respondent and his wife. The argument became heated and the Respondent threw several punches at his wife. The wife got hold of an umbrella that was near her and attempted to use it to block these punches. However, the Respondent managed to land a punch on his wife’s left cheek. The attack did not stop there. The Respondent grabbed the umbrella away from his wife and swung it at her, using it to hit her on both flanks: [4].

5            Their daughter informed the Respondent’s father about the incident after witnessing it. The Respondent’s father, who was also residing in the flat, tried to separate the Respondent and his wife. The wife tried to call the police with her hand-phone but the Respondent snatched it from her and threw it on the floor before she could make the call. The wife fled from the flat with the daughter and then called the police. She was found to suffer from “tenderness over her left cheek, forehead, left side of neck and left chest wall with thoracic region” as a result of the Respondent’s attacks. She was discharged with medication for the contusions. Since then, she has been seeking refuge at a community shelter and has not returned home to live with the Respondent: [5].

The court’s ground of decision/ Decision on appeal

6            The principle of deterrence features prominently in offences of domestic violence. The present case is no exception: [14]. The Respondent’s culpability was very high. The Respondent relentlessly assaulted against his wife in the presence of their then five-year-old daughter after returning home in an intoxicated state at past 2am and rudely waking them up. He bit her right leg. Later, he could even laugh and mock the way his wife held an umbrella to ward him off. He snatched the umbrella from her and used it to hit her body while sarcastically and sadistically telling her, “This is how it works!”.  He tried to stop her from leaving the flat after assaulting her and chased her to the lift when she managed to escape from the flat. The Respondent’s conduct greatly affected his wife’s and their young daughter’s sense of security and peace of mind. The wife even decided to seek refuge at a family centre and filed for divorce one week after the assault (though the divorce action was discontinued): [15] and [16].

7            The law is clear that voluntary excessive consumption of alcohol aggravates rather than mitigates an offence that results from such drunkenness. The Respondent had an alcohol problem for more than 10 years – the PPO against him in 2014 for the protection of his wife was issued after he had pushed his wife while he was in an intoxicated state, injuring her. Nevertheless, the Respondent continued with his excessive consumption of alcohol: [17].

8            The Respondent had a lack of rehabilitative prospects. The present offences were not out of character with his conduct leading to his wife applying for a PPO against him in 2014. Consuming too much alcohol and getting into trouble was also not new to him. He was convicted and imprisoned in 2007 and again in 2013 for drink-driving. His sudden decision to enrol with Alcoholics Anonymous after he was charged with the present offences did not appear to be motivated by true remorse but appeared to be a tactical move for his mitigation plea: [18] and [19].

9            The present offences did not fall under the categories for which community-based sentencing was envisaged. There was nothing to suggest that the Respondent’s capacity for rehabilitation was so promising that the option of community-based sentencing would be appropriate in the present case: [23].

10          Given the strong stance taken against family violence, custodial sentences have been imposed for breaches of PPOs: [24].

11          The High Court imposed imprisonment terms of three weeks for the charge of breach of PPO under the Women’s Charter and five weeks for the charge of voluntarily causing hurt under the Penal Code. As both offences were very close in time, the imprisonment terms were ordered to run concurrently, giving a total sentence of five weeks’ imprisonment: [27].

 

This summary is provided to assist in the understanding of the Court’s grounds of decision. It is not intended to be a substitute for the reasons of the Court. All numbers in bold font and square brackets refer to the corresponding paragraph numbers in the Court’s grounds of decision

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