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Apex court upholds 18-year jail term for killer in botched robbery, dismissing Prosecution’s appeal for life imprisonment

The Court of Appeal has upheld the sentence imposed on a man who killed the mother of his former boss in a robbery gone wrong more than 5 years ago.

51-year-old P Mageswaran was found guilty of culpable homicide not amounting to murder, with the intention of causing the death, of 62-year-old Madam Kanne Lactmy. He was handed a jail term of 18 years by Justice Hoo Sheau Peng in the High Court.

His appeal for a reduced sentence, as well as the Prosecution’s appeal for him to be jailed for life, were both thrown out on Thursday (11 April) morning.

Mageswaran had gone to Madam Lactmy’s flat to borrow money on the fateful day of 9 December 2013, where the latter told him that she did not have that amount of money.

While Madam Lactmy was in the toilet, Mageswaran searched the flat for valuables and found a jewellery box. He was spotted by her when he tried to make away with it.

He pleaded with her to allow him to keep the jewellery, but she refused and threatened to call her son. This was where matters took an unfortunate turn.

Mageswaran shoved Madam Lactmy onto the floor, pressed a pillow on her face with one of his hands hand and strangled her with the other, thereby killing her.

The Court of Appeal – comprising Judge of Appeal Judith Prakash, Judge of Appeal Steven Chong and Justice Woo Bih Li – heard both appeals in February and reserved judgment then.

Delivering the judgment of the court, Justice Chong first dealt with Mageswaran’s argument that he had no intention to cause death, but only the knowledge that his acts were likely to cause death, which would have made him liable for a maximum jail term of 10 years.

The court rejected the argument by Mr Derek Kang, Mageswaran’s lawyer, that he had only intended to grab Madam Lactmy’s jaw to silence her, it being an afterthought not mentioned in any of his police statements and only raised during the trial.

The court also noted the nature and severity of Madam Lactmy’s injuries, and that in strangling Madam Lactmy, Mageswaran had applied a significant amount of force; this further reinforced his intention to silence and kill her.

Turning to the appropriate sentence, Justice Chong echoed the point he and Justice Woo had made during the appeal hearing; that the Prosecution could have charged Mageswaran for murder without an intention to kill, and then seek the minimum sentence of life imprisonment from the court, instead of facing the onerous burden of charging him with culpable homicide and then forcefully persuade the court that it was the worst type of cases which warranted life imprisonment.

The court then rejected Chief Prosecutor Kow Keng Siong’s submission that the starting point of sentencing for culpable homicide cases with intention to kill should be life imprisonment, as it is contrary to established sentencing principles, i.e. that the maximum sentence for any offence should be reserved for the worst cases of that kind. They also noted that the robbery and killing were not premeditated, this being a mitigating factor in Mageswaran’s favour.

The Court of Appeal, however, disagreed with Justice Hoo below that Mageswaran was suffering from executive deficits at the time of the offence, and opined that the maximum definite jail term of 20 years might have been more appropriate for him.

Nevertheless, the court held that a jail term of 18 years was not manifestly inadequate or excessive to warrant intervention by an appellate court.