This semester has been a real struggle for me in terms of dealing with the modules in law school. I am finding criminal law extremely difficult. The modules gone by, constitutional law, the law of business organisations, torts, and contracts pale in comparison to the complexity of criminal law. I have two modules to clear this semester. LAW309 and LAW311. LAW 309 is the substantive law module and it entails a deep understanding of the various offences. LAW309 is centred around the Penal Code and students have to develop a good grasp of the statute as well as the key cases that have applied the relevant provisions. LAW311 is about criminal procedure and covers the Criminal Procedure Code. Both my lecturers have made the module extremely palatable but yet at times, I struggle to apply the concepts. Last evening was the last of the substantive seminars for LAW309. Next week marks the revision class and then it’s exam preparation season once again. It was very poignant that the 12th seminar showed me how imperfect the statute was and the beauty of such an imperfect system.

The Penal Code is wrought with complex topics and none more so than that of common intention. If you are a criminal law student, you should know what I mean. In common law jurisdictions like Singapore, judge-made laws may veer “rules” to complex topics like common intention one way and then another. Imagine my frustration rummaging through Lee Chez Kee v Public Prosecutor [2008] 3 SLR(R) 447 only to find that certain principles were “possibly” replaced by future cases. Namely Daniel Vijay s/o Katherasan and others v Public Prosecutor [2010] 4 SLR 1119 and the recent court of appeal case of PP v Azlin bte Arujunah and other appeals [2022] SGCA 52. It is rather confusing and at times hair wrenching to read all of these three cases past midnight after a long day of work. And despite what one of my lecturers says, the mornings do not make it any better.

The beauty then comes when you drill these cases down and then you understand the basis of how these cases were argued. It was a case of both the prosecution and defence counsel pushing their arguments to perhaps the limits of acceptable boundaries. How did I come to this epiphany? In the last two LAW309 classes, we students were made to stand up in front of our fellow learned classmates and argue out points across. Last night’s class was beautiful. We had the chance to test how far the boundaries of “criminal act” should be when applying section 34 of the Penal Code. For reference, this is section 34…


Each of several persons liable for an act done by all, in like manner as if done by him alone

34. When a criminal act is done by several persons, in furtherance of the common intention of all, each of such persons is liable for that act in the same manner as if the act were done by him alone.


That took a good 1 hour of constant debate within the class and, for me, a whole load of consternation for just about the whole of the next day.

Then a eureka moment when a few students were made to try to stretch the boundaries of section 301 of the Penal Code. It would not do justice to the moot point if I were to spell out the sides of the argument but if you did your readings and prepared for class, it was a very interesting discussion.


To the uninhibited, it would be a case of “what? you mean the law isn’t fixed?”

To those who are ready and hungry, this is proof that an imperfect system can yield beautiful results. For if it were not for this imperfect system, we would not have the society that we live in today. Justice is never perfect and it never should be because it never can be. To reach perfectness would be to say that a society cannot evolve anymore. This is why I personally find the law so interesting. No matter how much I think I know, I cannot know everything. No matter how much others know, if I have done my work and put in the effort, I will have the chance to convince them that my point is a probable consideration.

And then the class ended. Just when I felt that the fun had just begun for LAW309… That was the last seminar where we would be learning new topics. Kudos to my lecturer who brought makeshift pedestals to try to simulate a courtroom setting. If I had it my way, that’s how I would want all my classes to be.


Yours sincerely,