Mischief Under the Penal Code of Singapore

Mischief Under the Penal Code of Singapore

Introduction

Mischief can generally be categorized as an offence against someone’s property. It can be either public property or private property. Any change in such property or even its destruction can be classified as an offence of mischief under the Penal Code. Mischief can be of several forms, from acts that do not necessitate a regulatory framework to much more severe acts.

The Offence of Mischief

Section 425 characterizes mischief as a wide variety of offences. This involves maiming and murdering animals, as well as ruining roads, trains, and diverting water. Mischief is committed when a person intends or knows that he is likely to cause wrongful loss or damage to the public or another individual. He may have also meant to destroy or modify any property, or the status of any property, or destroy, lower the utility of any property or adversely affect the property.

The person or owner of the property that is injured or destroyed must suffer wrongful loss or damage. The offender doesn’t need to intend to cause loss or damage if the property is somehow impacted in such a way that its value or usability is impaired. As a result, if the criminal is fully aware that he is likely to inflict wrongful damage or loss, he is guilty of mischief.

Elements of Mischief

To prove the offence of mischief, one has to show that the elements of the offence have been met by the perpetrator. The elements of the offence of mischief are:

1. Destroys the property, diminishes its value/utility or affects it injuriously.
2. With the intent to cause or knows that one is likely to cause wrongful loss or damage to the public or any person.

Illustrations of Mischief

  • A wilfully burns a valuable security belonging to Z with the intent of causing Z wrongful loss. A has committed the offence of mischief.
  • A willingly tosses a ring belonging to Z into a river with the intent of inflicting Z’s wrongful loss. A has committed the offence of mischief.
  • Knowing that his effects are going to be executed to pay a debt owed by him to Z, A eliminates those effects to prevent Z from achieving the satisfaction of the obligation and thereby inflicting Z damage. A has committed the offence of mischief.
  • A, having insured a ship, wilfully causes it to be cast away in order to cause damage to the underwriters. A has committed mischief.
  • A causes a ship to be discarded with the intent of causing harm to Z, who has given money on the ship’s security. Mischief has been committed by A.
  • A, who owns a horse in joint ownership with Z, kills the horse, intending to inflict Z’s wrongful loss. A has committed mischief.

Different Types of Mischief Offences

1) Mischief Causing Disruption to Key Service, etc.

Whoever does mischief by committing any act that disrupts —

a) the provision of any key service; or
b) the execution of any duty or function of, or the exercise of any authority by the Government or a public agency;
is said to have committed this offence. Subsection (2) of section 427 provides a list of what is to be considered “key services” under this section. This form of mischief usually covers offences against public properties.

2) Mischief by Killing or Maiming any Animal

Anyone who commits mischief by murdering, poisoning, maiming, or rendering useless any animal is liable under this provision for mischief, under section 428 of the Penal Code.

3) Mischief by Fire or Explosive Substance with Intent to Cause Damage

Under section 435 of the Penal Code, anybody who commits mischief by fire or any explosive material with the intent to cause, or knowing it to be likely that he will cause, damage to any property is said to have committed this offence.

4) Mischief by Fire or Explosive Substance with Intent to Destroy a House, etc.

Under section 436, anyone who commits mischief by fire or any explosive component with the intent or knowledge that he will destroy any building that is ordinarily used as a place of worship, for the administration of justice, or the transaction of public affairs, or for education, or art, or for public use or ornament, or as a human dwelling, or as a place for the custody of property, is said to have committed this offence.

5) Mischief with Intent to Destroy or Make Unsafe a Decked Vessel or a Vessel of 20 tons Burden

This offence is committed by anyone who causes mischief to any decked vessel or any vessel with a load of 20 tonnes or more with the intent to destroy or render unsafe such vessel or knowing it is likely that he would do so. This offence is mentioned under section 437 of the Penal Code.

6) Mischief Committed after Preparation Made for Causing Death or Hurt

Whoever commits mischief with the preparation to inflict death, bodily harm, or wrongful restraint, or the threat of death, bodily harm, or wrongful restraint, is said to have committed this offence.

Mischief as an Arrestable Offence

Mischief as a general offence under section 425 of the Penal Code is not an arrestable offence. This implies that before the police may arrest the suspected perpetrator, they must first acquire an arrest warrant from the court. If the offender has committed or is reasonably suspected of having committed, a more serious mischief offence under sections 427 – 440 of the Penal Code while conducting the offending actions, the police can arrest the alleged offender without a warrant. The following are examples of more serious mischief offences:

• Committing mischief causing disruption to key service – section 427 of the Penal Code
• Mischief by fire or explosive substance with intent to cause damage – section 435 of the Penal Code

Punishments

1) General Mischief

The general punishment for committing mischief under section 426 of the Penal Code is imprisonment for a period of up to 2 years and a fine or either.

2) Mischief Causing Disruption to Key Service, etc.

The punishment for committing mischief causing disruption to key services, etc. is imprisonment for a period of up to 10 years, a fine, or both.

3) Mischief by Killing or Maiming any Animal

The punishment for mischief by killing or maiming any animal as mentioned under section 428 is imprisonment for a period of up to 5 years and a fine or either.

4) Mischief by Fire or Explosive Substance with Intent to Cause Damage

The punishment for committing the offence of mischief by fire or explosive substance with intent to cause damage is imprisonment for a period of up to 7 years and a fine according to section 435 of the Penal Code.

5) Mischief by Fire or Explosive Substance with Intent to Destroy a House, etc.

The punishment for committing the offence of mischief by fire or explosive substance with intent to destroy a house etc. is imprisonment for life or imprisonment for a period of up to 10 years and a fine as according to section 436 of the Penal Code.

6) Mischief with Intent to Destroy or Make Unsafe a Decked Vessel or a Vessel of 20 tons Burden

The punishment for this offence as mentioned under section 437 is imprisonment for a period of up to 10 years and a fine.

Section 438 states that if the mischief mentioned under section 437 is committed by fire or any explosive substance, then the punishment for such is imprisonment for life or imprisonment for a period of up to 10 years and also a fine.

7) Mischief Committed after Preparation Made for Causing Death or Hurt

The punishment for committing the offence of mischief committed after preparation made for causing death or hurt is imprisonment for a period of up to 5 years and a fine as mentioned under section 440 of the Penal Code.

Cases concerning Mischief

1) Public Prosecutor v Teo Chang Heng [2017] SGHC 315

The respondent had purposefully damaged his spouse’s car with his vehicle. The respondent had consented for her to utilise rental income from their property to pay for a portion of the overdue car instalment payments, which was undisputed. He had also previously contributed to the expense of the car’s repair. Even though the driver had not contributed to the car’s instalment payments or maintenance fees, he was the primary user of the vehicle. The respondent and his spouse were separated at the time of the incident, but he hoped to reconcile. The respondent sped up behind the automobile and tailgated it. He rear-ended it while following it closely down Boon Lay Way and was unable to stop in time. He then decided to drive past it and swipe it on the side. Not satisfied with that, he continued to do two U-turns when he noticed the driver had pulled over to the side of the road and stepped out onto the pavement to check the damage. The respondent then collided with the car from behind, forcing the automobile’s front left wheel to hit the kerb. Before a District Judge, the respondent pled guilty to a charge of mischief, which is punishable under Section 426 of the Penal Code. The prosecution challenged the District Judge’s decision to impose a 10-day jail sentence and 120 hours of community service. They sought a two-week sentence on the grounds that general deterrence and retributive principles demand it. The court determined that the 10-day sentence plus 120-hour CSO was not manifestly insufficient and was suitable in the circumstances. As a result, the appeal against the sentence was dismissed, and the District Judge’s sentence was upheld.

2) Public Prosecutor v Ng Guan Hup [2009] SGHC 170

The three allegations against the respondent stated that the respondent used a syringe to administer a drug to three racehorses belonging to Charles Leck at the Singapore Turf Club in July 2007. The horses underperformed during a race on July 20, 2007, as a result of the drugs. The respondent pled guilty to the accusation and acknowledged the statement of facts without qualification before the district judge on April 8, 2008. He was found guilty of mischief under Penal Code Section 425. The respondent also accepted and agreed to the court taking the other two offences into account when sentencing him. The district court adjourned the trial until 15 April 2008 for sentencing after hearing the mitigating plea. On the postponed date, however, the prosecution notified the court that new evidence had been discovered that put doubt on the respondent’s admissions and guilty plea. The prosecution requested that the respondent be awarded a discharge that did not equate to an acquittal on the three offences under section 184 of the Criminal Procedure Code. The application was denied by the district court, and the prosecution filed an appeal. The court concluded that the facts of the case supported accepting the prosecution’s appeal for a discharge that did not amount to an acquittal. As a result, the court approved the prosecution’s appeal and granted its plea for a discharge not equivalent to an acquittal against the respondent under section 184 of the CPC.