SINGAPORE - The Court of Appeal said on Monday that there was a need to guard against overcompensating for defamation, as it more than halved the damages payable by former Singapore Swimming Club president Freddie Koh to four club members.
The $105,000 each of the members was awarded by the High Court for being defamed was reduced to $50,000.
The Court of Appeal pointed to a 1998 defamation case involving then Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong.
He was "a political figure of far higher standing than the plaintiffs" in the present case and yet was awarded a total of $110,000 in general and aggravated damages.
But the court ruled the four were entitled to more in aggravated damages than in Mr Goh's suit, as there was "clear malice" involved this time.
In a rare move, it also set aside $705,000 in costs that Mr Koh was ordered to pay and asked for the amount to be reassessed.
"...it is clear that the bills were taxed on a wholly erroneous footing. Justice cries for intervention on the part of this court," wrote Justice Chao Hick Tin, who heard the appeal alongside Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon and Justice V. K. Rajah.
The four club members - Mr Bernard Chan, Mr Robin Tan, Mr Nicholas Chong and Mr Michael Ho - successfully sued Mr Koh for defamation last year over statements published in the minutes of two meetings in 2008.