Questions Remain in Woffles Wu Matter
~ By Choo Zheng Xi ~
In my article of 16 June 2012, I wrote:
“From reports in the Straits Times (which, unfortunately, have not been particularly clear about the precise charge that was brought), it seems that Woffles was charged with abetting the giving of "False information, with intent to cause a public servant to use his lawful power to the injury of another person" under Section 182 of the Penal Code.”
My article further notes that under the Penal Code, there are a few possible sections that could apply to Dr Wu.
Minister of Law and Foreign Affairs Mr K Shanmugam has since clarified that Dr Wu was charged under Section 81 (3) of the Road Traffic Act as the offences occurred in 2006.
He has further clarified that a charge under Section 204 of the Penal Code for perverting the course of justice was not preferred as the section had not been enacted in 2006.
I am grateful for the Law Minister’s clarification with regards to why Section 204 of the Penal Code was not the charge used.
However, I hope the Attorney General’s Chambers (AGC) can clarify why Section 182 of the Penal Code, which was in force at the time of Dr Wu’s offence, was not the charge used.
Section 182 has been used in cases involving the provision of false information to the police in traffic related violations.
In the 1997 case of Thirumalai Kumar v Public Prosecutor, which primarily related to speeding and rash driving charges, a Section 182 charge was brought, as a result of which the accused was sentenced to a two-week term of imprisonment.
In the 2001 case of PP v Yap Khim Huat, which again involved primary traffic offences of driving without a licence, being under the influence of drink and beating a red light, a charge under Section 182 was brought. This resulted in a 4 week sentence of imprisonment.
In the 2008 case of PP v Poh Chee Hwee, the accused gave false information to the police to help his brother avoid prosecution for a traffic offence. He was charged under Section 182 of the Penal Code, and given 2 weeks imprisonment.
In the 2001 cases of Lim Seng Keong v PP and Koh Chee Khoon v PP, the two offenders pleaded guilty to charges of covering up a traffic offence of driving a motor car without a valid licence. They were sentenced to 1 week’s imprisonment each.
In the 2001 case of Tan Jack Saa v PP, the offender was convicted on charges of speeding and abetting the furnishing of false information to the police. He persuaded the person taking the rap to sign a false letter of appeal stating he was innocent. While he was originally fined $400, on appeal the sentence was enhanced to two months imprisonment.
To be fair, the reason the above sentence was so long could have been influenced by the fact that the accused in this case had levelled “injurious falsehoods” at the police officer at the scene.
In the 2007 case of PP v Chia Pei Si, the accused was charged under Section 182 for providing false information that she was the driver of a car involved in a drink driving incident to cover up for her friend. She was sentenced to 2 weeks imprisonment.
District Judge Liew Thiam Leng also noted in his judgment: “Where false information is given by an accused to the police to evade prosecution, the norm is a custodial sentence of 2 weeks to 4 weeks imprisonment for a first offender”.
It should be noted that the accused in Chia Pei Si appealed but the result of the appeal is not available to me.
Zheng Xi is a Consultant Editor of TOC and a lawyer in private practice, but nothing in this article is to be taken as or relied upon as legal advice.