Public interest cases before apex court

SINGAPORE - In A rare occurrence, the apex Court of Appeal will this week hear several high-profile cases of public interest back to back.

It is understood that the cases raise questions of law where the decisions can have far-reaching effects. The cases include those of a lawyer convicted of commercial underage sex, an alleged computer hacker, and a blogger facing the prospect of court contempt charges.

Lawyers say the court's rulings on the applications made could affect the cases involved.

"The court may order the case to be re-heard by the lower court where the original judgment was made in the light of its findings, if applicable, and which may alter its previous decision," said senior criminal lawyer Peter Fernando.

Convicted lawyer Spencer Gwee, 60, has three issues for the Court of Appeal to settle in relation to his offence of engaging in commercial sex with a minor. He was given four months' jail and his appeal was dismissed by the High Court last year.

His lawyer, Senior Counsel Chelva Retnam Rajah, is seeking the court's ruling on questions including those related to procedural safeguards in photographic identification and the standard of proof expected in an appeal.

Separately, alleged hacker James Raj Arokiasamy seeks the court's ruling on whether a person remanded for investigations has an immediate right to see a lawyer on request.

His lawyer M. Ravi is in turn seeking the court's guidance on what amounts to a "reasonable time" within which the right of access to a lawyer can be exercised.

James Raj, 35, who was charged with hacking into the Ang Mo Kio Town Council's website last year and signing off as The Messiah, is currently in remand while investigations are ongoing.

While the two cases are filed by lawyers for the accused, two other cases are being initiated by the Attorney-General.

In one, the Attorney-General is seeking more time to file an appeal against the High Court's refusal to allow court contempt proceedings to be pursued against blogger Alex Au for a blog entry dated Oct 13 last year. The Attorney-General had previously obtained the High Court's nod to proceed on one of Mr Au's entries dated Oct 5 but not the other.

His lawyer Peter Low is applying at the same time to contest the move and the appeal, if the time extension is allowed.

In the second case, prosecutors want the court to clarify the application of a key section of the Prevention of Corruption Act, which became the subject of a successful High Court appeal by former food services manager Leng Kah Poh.

Mr Leng, 52, was initially found guilty of graft charges involving $2.3 million in bribes but was acquitted on appeal last year. He and two others later reached an out-of-court settlement with the firm, Ikano, in a civil suit.

Two other cases involve errant professionals in trouble with their professional bodies.

The Law Society is seeking to have rogue lawyer Tan Cheng Yew struck off the rolls, following his criminal conviction last year.

Dr Lee Kim Kwong, who was found guilty of professional misconduct by the Disciplinary Committee of the Singapore Medical Council, wants the findings reviewed and quashed by the Court of Three Judges.


The court may order the case to be re-heard by the lower court where the original judgment was made in the light of its findings, if applicable, and which may alter its previous decision. - Lawyer Peter Fernando on the Court of Appeal's decisions.

This article was published on May 5 in The Straits Times.

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