Under Section 299 of the Penal Code (Cap. 224, 2008 Rev Ed), a person commits the offence of culpable homicide if he causes death by doing an act
- with the intention of causing death;
- with the intention of causing such bodily injury as is likely to cause death; or
- with the knowledge that he is likely by such act to cause death.
The maximum punishment for culpable homicide is imprisonment for life and caning.
Murder is a subset of culpable homicide. Under Section 300 of the Penal Code, culpable homicide is murder if
- the act by which the death is caused is done with the intention of causing death;
- it is done with the intention of causing, to any person, bodily injury that the offender knows to be likely to cause the death of that person;
- it is done with the intention of causing bodily injury to any person, and the bodily injury intended is sufficient in the ordinary course of nature to cause death; or
- the person committing the act knows that it is so imminently dangerous that it must in all probability cause death, or such bodily injury as is likely to cause death, and commits such act without any excuse for incurring the risk of causing death, or such injury as aforesaid.
The punishments for offences of murder are
- Death; or
- Imprisonment for life and caning
An offence of murder usually has an additional element of certainty or premeditation compared to an offence of culpable homicide. There are also clear exceptions given in the Penal Code where culpable homicide is not murder.
- The offender was gravely and suddenly provoked.
- The offender was exercising the right of private defence of person or property, and exceeded the power given to him by law.
- The offender was a public servant, or was aiding a public servant and acting for the advancement of public justice, and exceeded the powers given to him by law.
- The offender caused death without premeditation in a sudden fight in the heat of passion upon a sudden quarrel.
- The person, whose death was caused, suffered death or risk of death with his own consent.
- The offence was one of infanticide.
- The offender was suffering from such abnormality of mind that his capacity to know the nature of his actions or his power to control his actions was impaired.
Death caused in furtherance of a group’s object
Under section 34 of the Penal Code, when a criminal act is done by several persons in furtherance of the common intention by all, each of such persons is liable for that act in the same manner as if the act were done by him alone.
The 4 elements of (a) a criminal act; (b) participation in the doing of the act; (c) a common intention between the parties; and (d) an act done in furtherance of the common intention of the parties were interpreted by the Court of Appeal in Public Prosecutor v Lee Chez Kee.
- Criminal act – Does not refer to the actual crime committed only. Refers to any criminal act which eventuated in the actual crime committed.
- Participation – Presence at the scene of the criminal act is not necessary for the liability referred to in this section to apply. One’s participation in the primary criminal act would be sufficient to make him liable as a secondary offender to criminal acts that follow the initial one.
- Proving common intention – To prove common intention between parties, the criminal act must be shown to have been committed in furtherance of a pre-arranged plan (ie. the primary criminal act). Inferences can be made from the conduct of the parties, weapons used and nature of wounds inflicted. However, these inferences should never be made unless they are necessary inferences deducible from the facts of the case.
- In furtherance of common intention – There is no need for the secondary offender to have the same intention as the main offender to be liable as a secondary offender to the offence in question. If one participates in the primary criminal act with subjective knowledge that it is likely that the secondary criminal act would follow, he can be convicted as a secondary offender to the secondary criminal act.
In the case of Public Prosecutor v Daniel Vijay s/o Katherasan and others, the Court of Appeal overturned the High Court Judge’s conviction of the appellants as secondary offenders of murder and substituted them with convictions under section 394 of the Penal Code for offences of robbery with hurt. This was because they were unable to make the “necessary inferences” from the facts of the case that the appellants subjectively knew that one of their accomplices was likely to commit murder in furtherance of their attempt to rob.
However, had the appellants in this case been in a group of 5 or more individuals at the time of the robbery, they may have been (subject to the definition of gang-robbery under section 391 of the Penal Code) charged and convicted with gang robbery with murder under section 396 of the Penal Code. The offence under section 396 carries the following punishments:
- Death; or
- Imprisonment for life and not less than 12 strokes of the cane.
Causing death by rash or negligent act
Under section 304A of the Penal Code, the punishment for causing death by a
- Rash act: Imprisonment which may extend to 5 years, or with fine, or with both; or
- Negligent act: Imprisonment which may extend to 2 years, or with fine, or with both
For more information, please contact our criminal lawyer, Ray Louis, at 9090 8288.