Mentally ill man who slashed wife to death gets 2 years' jail

Kong Peng Yee being arrested in March last year after killing his wife of 36 years. In sentencing him, Justice Choo Han Teck said that "punishment is probably not the most appropriate response to a man like the accused", and that "his madness is its
Kong Peng Yee being arrested in March last year after killing his wife of 36 years. In sentencing him, Justice Choo Han Teck said that "punishment is probably not the most appropriate response to a man like the accused", and that "his madness is its own punishment".PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

Prison sentence for 69-year-old the shortest ever meted out for intentional culpable homicide here

A 69-year-old retired aircraft technician was yesterday given a sentence of two years in jail - the shortest ever meted out for intentional culpable homicide here.

Kong Peng Yee had killed his wife of 36 years by stabbing her repeatedly while suffering psychotic delusions that his family might harm him.

As the prison term was backdated to March 13 last year, when he was arrested, Kong was released from jail yesterday, given the usual one-third remission for good behaviour.

Sentencing Kong yesterday, High Court judge Choo Han Teck said that "punishment is probably not the most appropriate response to a man like the accused here".

"What is the appropriate punishment for a man whose act was guided by thoughts that entered unbidden into his mind? There is no clear answer," he said.

Justice Choo wondered if punishment was even necessary. "His madness is its own punishment," he said.

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The problem, said the judge, lies with "an archaic law that has been incorporated into our statute".

He was referring to a legal test, known as the M'Naghten rule, laid down in a 19th century English case which declared a man not to be insane if he either knew what he was doing or that what he was doing was wrong. "From that moment on, legal insanity and medical insanity have not fitted themselves snugly in the same box," he said.

The judge questioned if a person who had lost his sanity is truly able to discern his own mental state.

Justice Choo said the M'Naghten rule should be re-examined and that "doctors and lawyers should speak a common language" when dealing with the mental responsibility of a mentally ill accused.

Kong started behaving oddly last year. He refused to take his medication, thinking laxatives were poison.

On March 12 last year, though a health check showed no adverse results, he was worried someone was trying to harm him or he was going to die from a disease. He also told his older daughter that he did not think she was his biological daughter.

At church the next day, he told a stranger that people were poisoning him. He returned home and took a nap, but awoke to roaring sounds.

He took a knife from the kitchen and stabbed Madam Wong Chik Yeok until she was dead. An autopsy noted 189 injuries, including knife wounds and bruises.

The prosecution, which had sought at least nine years in jail, is appealing against the sentence.

Half a dozen family members, including Kong's two daughters, were in court, but declined to comment when approached.

"For them, it is an unexpected surprise," said defence counsel Sunil Sudheesan. He had asked for a five-year jail term.

Kong pleaded guilty last month to culpable homicide. He was initially charged with murder but the charge was reduced, as a court-mandated psychiatric assessment by Dr Kenneth Koh from the Institute of Mental Health found that Kong's mental responsibility for his actions had been substantially impaired by his psychotic delusions.

Kong's psychiatric disorder is now in remission with medication, and he has been certified safe to be returned to the care of his family.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 17, 2017, with the headline 'Mentally ill man who slashed wife to death gets 2 years' jail'. Print Edition | Subscribe