Comprehensive Analysis of Culpable Homicide Sentencing: Public Prosecutor v M Krishnan [2024] SGHC 128

Comprehensive Analysis of Culpable Homicide Sentencing: Public Prosecutor v M Krishnan [2024] SGHC 128


In Singapore, culpable homicide not amounting to murder is a serious offense under the Penal Code, demanding careful judicial scrutiny. The High Court’s decision in Public Prosecutor v M Krishnan [2024] SGHC 128 provides an exemplary case study on how the judiciary balances various factors to arrive at a just sentence. This article explores the detailed facts of the case, the general law on murder, legal reasoning, and the implications of the verdict to provide an authoritative resource on this critical area of criminal law.

General Law on Murder under the Penal Code

Under Singapore’s Penal Code (Cap 224, 2008 Rev Ed), the law distinguishes between murder and culpable homicide not amounting to murder.

Section 300 of the Penal Code defines murder as an act by which:

  1. The offender causes death with the intention of causing death.
  2. The offender causes such bodily injury as is likely to cause death.
  3. The offender, knowing that his act is so imminently dangerous that it must in all probability cause death or such bodily injury as is likely to cause death, commits the act without any excuse for incurring the risk of causing death or such injury.

Section 302 of the Penal Code prescribes the punishment for murder, which is death or life imprisonment with caning.

Section 304 of the Penal Code provides for culpable homicide not amounting to murder and divides it into two categories:

  1. Section 304(a): If the act by which death is caused is done with the intention of causing death, or of causing such bodily injury as is likely to cause death, the offender shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or up to 20 years, and shall also be liable to a fine or caning.
  2. Section 304(b): If the act is done with the knowledge that it is likely to cause death but without the intention of causing death or such bodily injury as is likely to cause death, the punishment is imprisonment for a term which may extend to 10 years, or with fine, or with both.

Case Background

Facts of the Case: M Krishnan, aged 34 at the time of the offense, was charged under Section 304(a) of the Penal Code for culpable homicide not amounting to murder. The incident occurred between 11:29 pm on 16 January 2019 and 1:33 am on 17 January 2019, following heavy alcohol consumption. Krishnan assaulted his live-in partner, who subsequently died from her injuries. The accused’s psychiatric evaluation revealed that he suffered from Intermittent Explosive Disorder (IED), which, when combined with intoxication, significantly contributed to the offense.

Sequence of Events:

  1. Initial Assaults: The relationship between Krishnan and the deceased began in 2015. Prior incidents of violence were noted, including an assault in 2017 over a trivial matter.
  2. Fatal Night: On 15 January 2019, following a confession of infidelity by the deceased, Krishnan inflicted severe physical harm. The deceased sought medical attention but left the hospital before receiving complete care.
  3. Final Assault: On the evening of 16 January 2019, after continuous alcohol consumption, Krishnan brutally attacked the deceased. Despite efforts to revive her, she succumbed to her injuries, leading to Krishnan’s eventual surrender to the police.

Judicial Reasoning

Sentencing Framework: Justice Valerie Thean’s sentencing considered both statutory provisions and relevant case law. Section 304(a) of the Penal Code prescribes life imprisonment or up to 20 years’ imprisonment, with the possibility of caning or a fine.

Aggravating Factors:

  1. Domestic Violence: The offense took place within a domestic context, exacerbating the severity due to the betrayal of trust.
  2. Brutality of the Assault: The prolonged and violent nature of the assault, evidenced by extensive injuries and fractured ribs, underscored the excessive force used.
  3. Voluntary Intoxication: Krishnan’s choice to consume alcohol, despite knowing its exacerbating effect on his IED, was a significant aggravating factor.

Mitigating Factors:

  1. Plea of Guilt: Krishnan’s guilty plea and cooperation during the investigation were acknowledged, though given limited weight due to the overwhelming evidence against him.
  2. Absence of Premeditation: The lack of premeditation was considered neutral, not warranting significant mitigation.

Psychiatric Evaluation: The reports by Dr. Christopher Cheok and Dr. Ung Eng Khean concluded that while Krishnan’s IED contributed to his loss of self-control, his voluntary intoxication was the primary factor in the fatal assault. This nuanced understanding influenced the court’s decision to impose a severe sentence.

Legal Precedents

The court referenced multiple precedents to ensure a consistent and fair sentencing approach:

  1. Lim Ghim Peow v Public Prosecutor: This case involved a similar charge under Section 304(a), where the offender received a 20-year sentence. The comparison highlighted the role of mental disorders in sentencing.
  2. Dewi Sukowati v Public Prosecutor: The 17-year-old offender’s case provided insights into sentencing considerations for young offenders with mental health issues, resulting in an 18-year sentence.
  3. Public Prosecutor v Vitria Depsi Wahyuni: This case illustrated the severe consequences of domestic worker offenses, leading to a 20-year sentence on appeal.


The High Court’s decision in Public Prosecutor v M Krishnan underscores the complex interplay between mental health issues and criminal responsibility. Justice Valerie Thean’s meticulous analysis of the facts, psychiatric evaluations, and relevant legal precedents ensured a balanced and just verdict. This case serves as a critical reference for legal practitioners and the public, illustrating the judicial approach to culpable homicide sentencing in Singapore.


The ruling emphasizes the importance of considering both mental health conditions and voluntary actions, such as intoxication, in sentencing decisions. It also highlights the judiciary’s commitment to addressing domestic violence with appropriate severity. By understanding the nuances of this case, legal professionals can better navigate the complexities of culpable homicide cases involving mental health issues.

This comprehensive analysis aims to be a top-ranked resource for anyone seeking in-depth information on culpable homicide sentencing in Singapore, contributing to a broader understanding of the legal principles at play.

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