Monday, 5 February 2018

Stupid Prosecutors or Long Overdue Law?

Singapore Parliament

Stupid Prosecutors or Long Overdue Law?

Parliament in Action: too slow - long overdue or too fast when concerning elections?
The closing charter of the City Harvest Church trial indicates there is a long overdue review of the Penal Code (Section 409) in Parliament as the Court of Appeal suggested. However, it also proves that public prosecutors can easily be out smarted by clever defending lawyers. When there is gap in law, private lawyers can take advantage of the weakness in law for their clients - provided they have the money. So, private lawyers can outperform public prosecutors in open court. Driven by profit, they are willing to help their clients and even out smart the Attorney-General's Chamber to find the gap in law. This is the case the late Lee Kuan Yew was afraid of. He was very concerned about the talent pool of government legal services and judges. (http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/data/pdfdoc/lky19810317.pdf) [Singapore Management University law don Eugene Tan noted that the Penal Code was first drafted in the Victorian England era. "A Penal Code review is timely and urgent as well as a reminder not to accept conventional wisdom about what each provision means, and to ensure that the law remains relevant," he said. Professor Tan added that it may be hard for some to understand why, for four decades, the provision was accepted by prosecutors, lawyers and judges. "It took a case like this, with the legal firepower of several Senior Counsel, to expose the inadequacy of Section 409." http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/courts-crime/review-of-law-is-long-overdue-experts-agree ] Two interesting points arise from the above report: 1. No one cares about the gap in law. “it may be hard for some to understand why, for four decades, the provision was accepted by prosecutors, lawyers and judges.” It may even long overdue for almost 200 years. [The court said its conclusion was supported by the language and structure of the provision itself. There is also a coherent and well-established line of authority, tracing back almost two centuries, that an "agent" under Section 409 must be an individual who is in the business of providing agency services. http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/courts-crime/highlights-of-the-decision] 2. Money is king. Money is a game changer. "It took a case like this, with the legal firepower of several Senior Counsel, to expose the inadequacy of Section 409." Parliament in Action: too slow or too fast? [AGENT OR NOT? The Court of Appeal ruled the term "agent" in Section 409 of the Penal Code, which provides for enhanced punishment for criminal breach of trust (CBT) for certain classes of people, applies to someone who is a professional agent. As such, company directors and key officers of charities, such as the six found guilty in the City Harvest Church case, could not be convicted under Section 409. The court said its conclusion was supported by the language and structure of the provision itself. There is also a coherent and well-established line of authority, tracing back almost two centuries, that an "agent" under Section 409 must be an individual who is in the business of providing agency services. http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/courts-crime/highlights-of-the-decision] The term “agent” can be untouchable for more than 40 years if not 200 years in Singapore. However, when laws and legislation concerning general election, elected president, internal security or media control, the PAP government will rush out in no time. What does it really mean?
 


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