Friday, July 23, 2010

Catch The Lie Here

It has made world news. British author Alan Shadrake was served with an application by the Attorney-General for an order of committal for Contempt of Court. Since Walter Woon has left the post (purportedly over the public spat with the director of the National Neuroscience Institute about CK Tang magnate Tang Wee Sung having to go to jail for attempting to buy a kidney illegally), Mrs Koh Juat Jong is the Acting Attorney-General from April 11 to September 30. Mr Sundaresh Menon, Senior Counsel and Managing Partner of Rajah and Tann LLP will be the new Attorney-General from October 1.

But you don't have to be a qualified lawyer to understand that contempt of court has to do with non-compliance of in-court instructions.

According to legal-definitions .com:
"It is an act of purposely not following an order given by the court.It also means misbehaving with any judge or attorney during a trial and thereby interfering with the proceedings of the court."

The Legal Information Institute at Cornell University states similar:
"Direct Contempt of Court is the inherent power judicial officers possess to maintain respect, dignity, and order during proceedings. Because direct contempt of court involves conduct at the proceedings, criminal direct contempt is much more unusual than civil direct contempt. "

All the gobbledygook above begs the question:
How can Shardrake be accused of contempt of court when he was outside a court of law, just trying to make a living selling books? He wasn't even wearing one of those limited edition T-shirts featuring a marsupial. NEA has a better case of hawking without a licence.

Chief Justice Chan Sek Keong, while conferred an honorary degree of Doctor of Laws by the National University of Singapore, told his audience that "What is evil depends on one's views of what is morally right and morally wrong, and how one distinguishes 'right' from 'wrong' may depend on many factors, such as one's religious faith or lack of it, or one's philosophy of life. At its simplest, however, something evil is something bad."

So is something bad going to happen to Shadrake? One doubts that even Prof Walter Woon can answer that question with certainty, "I didn't go out to ruffle feathers, but it's inevitable when you talk about these things that you will. People say, why prosecute the poor man (Tang Wee Sung)? Because he lied, that's why. It's an assault on the basic foundation of our law!"


  1. Wow, that quote from Chan is awful. He's essentially claiming that evil is a completely relativistic issue -- that whether it's evil to fly planes into buildings depends on whether you think it is right. And "something evil is something bad" is the kind of gem I'd expect to hear from a five-year-old.

  2. The contempt of court laws that we have (unfortunately) inherited from the British has both contempt in the face of court as well as other forms of contempt.

    The obvious one is where you disobey a court order. That is contempt of court.
    You could disobey the judge's direction within a courtroom or speak rudely to a judge. - that is also contempt.
    Outside the courtroom, you can attack the integrity of the judiciary, that is also contempt of court.
    Discussing a matter that is 'sub judice' in a public forum is also contempt of court.

    We still apply this law in Singapore even though in the UK the harshness of some aspects of contempt proceedings has been reduced.

  3. Kiss from LKY.
    Keep it simple silly!
    How to trust a person and/or system that tries to pass off kangaroo logic as legal wisdom.

  4. The revised statute from The UK Statute Law Database, Contempt of Court Act 1981 (c. 49), states:
    "A publication made as or as part of a discussion in good faith of public affairs or other matters of general public interest is not to be treated as a contempt of court under the strict liability rule if the risk of impediment or prejudice to particular legal proceedings is merely incidental to the discussion."

  5. Contempt of HUMANITY!!!