The Court of Appeal has slashed the legal costs awarded against former Singapore Swimming Club president Freddie Koh after he lost a defamation suit.
The amount was cut from $705,000 to $325,000 in what legal observers say is a clear signal from the court that those mounting libel actions should not seek unreasonably large payouts by going to the High Court.
Mr Koh said on Tuesday the club has been covering his legal costs as he was an official then.
He was ousted from his position in March last year amid attempts by some club members to force him to pay back the money used for the case.
Four club members - Mr Bernard Chan, Mr Robin Tan, Mr Nicholas Chong and Mr Michael Ho - successfully sued Mr Koh for defamation in 2009 over statements published in the minutes of two meetings in 2008.
The statements related to a decision by the four to buy a water filtration system for the club pool. They had each been awarded $105,000 in damages by the High Court, but this was reduced to $50,000 per head by the Court of Appeal in August this year.
The Court of Appeal on Monday fixed the costs for the 191/2- day High Court trial at $200,000 and gave another $80,000 for disbursements such as stamp fees. It awarded another $45,000 for two appeals in 2011.
The High Court had earlier set $602,500 in costs for the trial and $102,500 for the appeal.
In August, the Court of Appeal called for costs payable by Mr Koh to be reassessed "in accordance with the spirit that a party should not have to incur costs other than what is warranted by the claim".