Public Prosecutor v Arokiasamy a/l Alphonso [2012] 1 MLJ 165

Public Prosecutor v Arokiasamy a/l Alphonso [2012] 1 MLJ 165

Court of Appeal (Putrajaya)

Defence of Insanity for the Offence of Murder

Facts

1.    In this case, the Respondent was charged under Section 302 of the Penal Code (Act 574) for the murder of Ganam a/p Sinnasamy (‘the Accused’).

2.    At about 10.30pm on 19 July 2000 the Respondent went into Inspector Tha Na Sak’s (PW8) office at the Johor Bahru police station. The Respondent’s shirt was stained with blood and he was shivering. When PW8 asked him why he was shivering, the Respondent answered that he had killed his sister-in-law.

3.    The Respondent then led PW8 to a green Proton Tiara car parked outside PW8’s office. Inside the car, at the front passenger seat, was the dead body of the Deceased and her head was leaning onto the side glass window of the said car.

4.    There was slashed mark on her neck and blood stains on her dress. There was a kitchen knife stained with blood at the footwell on the driver’s side of the car.

5.    The Respondent was arrested by PW8 on the instruction of the investigating officer, ASP James a/l Jonathan (PW9). Soon after, the Respondent brought a police party led by PW9 to Jalan Berjaya 8, Taman Perindustrian Berjaya, Tampoi, about 10km from the police station allegedly the place where he committed the act.

6.    Upon returning to the police station, PW8 took possession of the clothing the Respondent was wearing, the knife and the car which was later ascertained to belong to the Respondent.

7.    The blood stain on the knife was later found by the government chemist to be of the same group AB, as the Deceased’s, suggested it was the murder weapon.

8.    The post-mortem on the Deceased’s body was conducted on 20 July 2000 by Dr Shahidan Mohd Noor (PW1). There were several stabs and incised wounds on the Deceased’s body. An incised wound on front lower part of her neck severed the airway and major vessels there.

9.    According to PW1, the cause of the Deceased’s death was due to the incised wound on the Deceased’s neck.

10.  The learned trial judge admitted the confession made by the Respondent to PW8 that he killed the Deceased as it was made voluntarily. It is to be noted that during the trial, the Respondent’s learned counsel conceded that the confession was made voluntarily without inducement, threat or promise.

11.  The learned trial judge found the multiple stab wounds on the body of the Deceased were indicative of the fact that they could have been inflicted by the doer with the intention of causing death.

12.  The learned trial judge therefore ruled that a prima facie case had been proved by the prosecution against the Respondent.

13.  During defence, the Respondent testified that the Deceased who was his sister-in-law was staying with him and his family at house No 30, Jalan Maju Jaya, Johor Baharu. He was then doing a business of supplying medical equipment.

14.  On 2 May 1998, the Respondent had a cardiac arrest and he underwent a coronary bypass operation. After the heart bypass he had been very stressful and had cardiac neurosis. As a result of that, his ability to carry out his work had been affected.

15.  Before the year of 2000, he started a company called Beyond Eng Sdn Bhd. The company was set up to market book stands which he designed himself. The Deceased resigned from her job in Singapore and joined him on 19 July 2000.

16.  According to the Respondent, on that day itself, the Deceased told him that she had changed her mind of joining the Respondent’s venture.

17.  An argument took place between them at his house. The Respondent got into his car and the Deceased followed him. While the Respondent was driving, the Deceased kept on arguing, screaming and shouting in the car.

18.  The Respondent said he could not remember using any physical violence on her and he could not remember taking with him any knife when he left the house that day because he never kept a knife in his car.

19.  He only realised something had happened when there was silence in the car as he turned to look at the Deceased and the Deceased did not respond when he called her name.

20.  Theresama a/p Sinnasamy (DW2) is the wife of the Respondent. In her testimony, she confirmed the Respondent’s testimony that the Respondent underwent a heart operation in 1998. After that operation, there were changes in him. He got angry very fast, and was moody. He also got depressed.

21.  DW2 also confirmed that on 19 July 2000 there was an argument between the Respondent and the Deceased because the Deceased did not want to participate in the Respondent’s business. The Respondent got angry and he broke the house furniture.

22.  According to DW2, the argument started at about two something in the afternoon. The Respondent walked off and took the car and the Deceased followed him. The Respondent did not tell her where he wanted to go when he went out that night.

23.  The Respondent also called Dr Badiah binti Yahya (DW3), a forensic psychiatrist attached with Hospital Permai, Johor Bahru. She testified that the Respondent was admitted to the hospital on 3 August 2000, 15 days after the incident, on the order of the magistrate for medical assessment of his sanity pursuant to Section 342 of the Criminal Procedure Code (Act 593).

24.  DW3 examined the Respondent on 4 August 2000 using history taking and mental and physical state examination procedures. She conducted a detailed examination of the Respondent on 4 August 2000 and 8 August 2000.

25.  In the afternoon of 8 August 2000, she presented her findings at a grand ward round attended by other psychiatrists of the hospital and Dr Benjamin Chan Teck Ming, the director. They concurred with her finding that the Respondent was not insane at the time he was alleged to have committed the act.

26.  DW3, however, made it clear that this unfavourable conclusion was reached based solely on the assessment on whether the Respondent could have had a “delusion or hallucination” at the time he committed the act.

27.  An assessment on the other aspects within the M’Naughten rule could not be accurately conducted by reason that the Respondent was only admitted to the hospital 15 days after the incident.

28.  DW3 also said that there were known medical cases of patients having fallen into such a state of mindlessness after experiencing a trauma such as after undergoing a serious surgical operation.

29.  DW3 opined that it is not improbable in view of the Respondent’s medical history that he may have lapsed into a state of mindlessness as not to have been conscious of what he was doing.

30.  Under cross-examination, DW3 said the board of the ward round found that the Respondent did not fulfil the criteria of Section 84 of Act 574, that is to say that at the time he committed the act he was of sound mind.

31.  By ‘sound mind’ she means the Respondent had not had delusion or hallucination. DW3 further explained that they could not assess whether the Respondent knew what he did was wrong as the Respondent was admitted two weeks after the alleged offence.

32.  The learned trial judge held that there was no evidence of grave and sudden provocation on the part of the Respondent or any such altercation that had led the Respondent to suddenly kill the Deceased in the car.

33.  Therefore, the trial judge made a finding that the Respondent had established the defence of insanity and acquitted the Respondent on grounds of insanity.

Issue 1.    Whether the learned trial judge was right in his finding that the Respondent had established the defence of insanity under Section 84 of Act 574.
Ratios

1.    Defence of insanity under Section 84 of Act 574

(a)   The deputy public prosecutor submitted that based on the evidence adduced by the defence, the Appellant, on a balance of probability, failed to establish the defence of insanity.

(b)   A number of cases on the defence of insanity had been referred to the Court by the deputy public prosecutor to support his submission.

(c)   The deputy public prosecutor also submitted that the prosecution had established the motive for the Respondent to kill the Deceased as before the Deceased was found murdered, there was an argument between the Respondent and the Deceased prior to the incident as the Respondent was angry with the Deceased.

(d)   It is further submitted that the Respondent had not explained about the existence of the knife in his car.

(e)   Based on the available evidence, the Court agreed with the finding of the learned trial judge that the prosecution had proved prima facie against the Respondent on the offence charged.

(f)     The Court also agreed with his decision to reject the defence’s contention that the Respondent was only guilty of culpable homicide not amounting to murder by virtue of Exception 1 and 4 of Section 300 of Act 574.

(g)   Section 84 of Act 574 provides that-

“Nothing is an offence which is done by a person who, at the time of doing it, by reason of unsoundness of mind, is incapable of knowing the nature of the act, or that he is doing what is either wrong or contrary to law”.

(h)   The principles of law relating to the defence of insanity have been summarised by this court in John a/l Nyumbei v Public Prosecutor [2007] 2 MLJ 206

“This section exempts a person found to be insane of any criminal responsibility if it is found that he is ‘incapable of knowing the nature of the act, or that he is doing what is either wrong or contrary to law’. Thus, under s 84 of the Penal Code, criminality has to be determined according to that legal test and not merely by the mental state of an accused person according to the medical test”.

(i)     Furthermore, according to the case of Rajagopal v Public Prosecutor [1977] 1 MLJ 6, the Court held that the standard of proof upon the Accused raising the defence of insanity is on a balance of probabilities, as in a civil case. Therefore, if the Appellant here is able to show, either from the prosecution or other evidence that he committed the crime but was at that time became insane, he cannot be culpable by virtue of Section 84 of Act 574.

(j)     In the instant case, the learned trial judge found that the Accused had succeeded in discharging that burden because of his claim that he had a serious heart disease and had experienced a change of personality after undergoing heart surgery in 1998 is supported by the evidence of his wife who said he was not a person of an aggressive nature until he underwent the surgery when his personality changed.

(k)    In addition, his claim of having been in that state of mindlessness was also supported by the expert medical opinion of Dr Badiah who was of the opinion that it was probable for him to be angry and to have mood swings. She could not say for certain on an observational basis whether in this case the accused can have a sudden mental blackout as he was admitted 15 days after the fact.

(l)     However, she did say that generally such a blackout can happen in a patient such as the Accused in which may in turn cause him to lose control of himself that he may not have been conscious of what he did.

(m) The prosecution could have called rebuttal evidence to rebut Dr Badiah’s opinion but it did not. The question of whether the Accused has successfully discharged the burden of proving that he was legally insane at the time he committed the act would therefore have to be determined mainly from the medical opinion of Dr Badiah according to the trial court.

(n)   Further, there is an absence of a motive as to why the Accused would want to kill the deceased in this case. He had denied in cross-examination that the Deceased was his lover and that he had killed her because she was leaving him to marry another person from Singapore. Indeed, no evidence of such a relationship was ever adduced before the Court.

(o)   However, the Court of Appeal did not agree with the trial court’s finding and was of the opinion that the medical evidence given by DW3 did not support the learned trial judge’s finding that the Respondent had established the defence under Section 84  Act 574 because she merely gave a general opinion that a sudden mental blackout could happen in a patient such as the Respondent in which it may in turn cause him to lose control of himself and that he may not have been conscious of what he did.

(p)   Therefore, the Court decided that the evidence adduced by the defence through DW3 was not sufficient to establish the defence under Section 84 of Act 574 that the Respondent was incapable of knowing the nature of his act.

(q)   There was therefore nothing for the prosecution to rebut DW3’s evidence. As stated earlier, Section 84 of Act 574 deals with legal insanity. Here, the defence had not even established through the medical evidence that at the time the Respondent committed the act he was in a state of mindlessness.

(r)     Furthermore, the Court was of the view that the multiple injuries suffered by the Deceased did not support the Respondent’s version that at that time he was in a state of mindlessness.

(s)    As for the element of motive, the Court was also unable to agree with the finding of the learned trial judge that the prosecution had not established the motive on the part of the Respondent in killing the deceased.  This is because, the Respondent and the Deceased had an argument due to the Deceased who wanted to withdraw from the venture initiated by the Respondent on the first day the venture commenced. The learned trial judge had failed to appreciate the defence’s case.

(t)    As a result, the Court was of the view that it can be reasonably inferred from the evidence that the Respondent stabbed and slashed the Deceased because he was angry with her. That was the reason why there were many injuries inflicted on the Deceased by the Respondent.

(u)   For the reasons given, the Court found that the learned trial judge had erred in law and in fact in coming to the conclusion that the Respondent had established the defence under Section 84 of Act 574 and was satisfied that the prosecution had proved its case against the Respondent beyond reasonable doubt.

Decision

1.    The Court of Appeal allowed the appeal and convicted the Respondent of the offence of murder and sentenced to death.

Key Take Away

1.    Section 84 of the Act 574 provides that nothing is an offence which is done by a person who, at the time of doing it, by reason of unsoundness of mind, is incapable of knowing the nature of the act, or that he is doing what is either wrong or contrary to law.

2.    Pursuant to the Ratanlal and Dhirajlal’s Law of Crimes, (5th Ed), when the defence of insanity is raised, the court thus needs to consider two matters, namely-

(a) whether the accused person has successfully established, as a preliminary issue, that at the time of committing the act he was of unsound mind, and

(b) if he was of unsound mind, whether he has proven that his unsoundness of mind was of a degree to satisfy one of the tests earlier mentioned ie, that the accused was incapable of knowing the nature of his act as being wrong or against the law.

3.    To conclude, the accused will only be entitled to raise defence of insanity provided under Section 84 of Act 574 if the accused succeeds to prove that he is insane at the time he commits the offence.

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