Singapore: Mentally unstable man given 2 years' jail term for stabbing wife to death

Kong Peng Yee, the accused, might be released from prison on the same day of trial as his jail term was backdated to March 13, 2016, the day of his remand.

A forensic investigator recovers a knife after man was arrested on Whitehall in Westminster
Picture for representation Reuters

A retired aircraft technician from Singapore was given a jail sentence of two years on Monday, October 16, for stabbing his wife to death, while he was suffering a psychotic episode. The given sentence is one of the most lenient for culpable homicide. Justice Choo, who was presiding over the case, took the decision taking into account the mental health of the accused.

Kong Peng Yee, the accused, might be released from prison on the same day of his trial as his jail term was backdated to March 13, 2016, the day of his remand. He was also be awarded one-third remission for good behaviour.

"For them, it's an unexpected surprise," said defence counsel Sunil Sudheesan about Kong's family members' reaction, as reported by the Straits Times. The prosecutor in the case had asked for at least a nine year jail sentence, while the defence was hoping for a lenient sentence of less than five years.

"I think that punishment is probably not the most appropriate response to a man like the accused here, and certainly not the nine years' imprisonment sought," said High Court judge Choo Han Teck about this case.

Kong had pleaded guilty of his wife's murder, which he had committed by slashing open her head with a knife and a chopper. The incident had taken place on March 13, 2016, at the family's Sengkang home.

The accused was suffering from delusions, thinking that his family was after his life. His act of murder had been a precautionary reaction before he could be harmed by his family.

According to his statement to the police, his mind instructed him to "make sure she die." He also stated that he was "happy" when she died, reported The Straits Times.

Kong developed paranoia and delusional behavior after he stopped taking his medications in January 2016, after a cataract surgery. He believed that there was poison in his medicines. He told his elder daughter that he did not believe her to be his biological off-spring. The following day, he exhibited strange behavior at church. It was his firm belief that people were after his life.

On the fateful day, he woke up from his nap to roaring sounds and stabbed his wife to death with a knife from the kitchen sink. Her autopsy revealed that she had suffered 189 injuries: knife wounds, and bruises. Her death had been caused by excessive bleeding from her head injury.

Kong's initial murder charge was reduced to culpable homicide as his psychiatric assessment revealed psychotic delusions. The assessment was performed by Dr. Kenneth Koh from the Institute of Mental Health. Kong is now medicated and in remission, giving him a safe certification for returning to his family life.

Talking about the accused's mental health, Justice Choo said, "Given those circumstances, a reasonable man may fairly wonder why any punishment is even required? His madness is its own punishment."

The judge also questioned laws governing mentally ill criminals, as there are several mental illnesses and abnormalities which affect a person's mind in different ways and to different extents, according to him.

He said the language of the M'Naghten rule - laid down in the 19th century and stating that a man was not insane if he either knew about his actions or that his actions were wrong - should be re-examined.

"Doctors and lawyers should speak a common language when dealing with the mental responsibility of an accused who was labouring under a mental illness at the time of the offence," he added.