SDP leaders convicted and jailed for contempt of court

Dr Chee Soon Juan and Ms Chee Siok Chin were convicted of contempt of court by High Court Judge Belinda Ang and sentenced to 12 and 10 days imprisonment respectively.

The Judge had said that the two defendants had scandalised the court and impugned its integrity.

At the beginning of the hearing this morning counsel for Ms Chee, Mr M Ravi, argued that the transcript Judge Ang used for citing instances of contemptuous conduct came from Merrill Legal Solutions, a company contracted to record and transcribe proceedings.

The Lees’ lawyers of Drew & Napier had paid for Merrill’s services. A copy of the transcript was then extended to Judge Ang.

Mr Ravi pointed out that documents that were relied on by the court had to be made available to all parties. The defendants were not provided copies of the full transcript.

When Dr Chee approached Merrill earlier, he was informed that because Drew & Napier had applied for the transcription servicess, a copy could not be given to him. The defendant was told he would have to contact the Lees’ lawyers.

Judge Ang ordered Mr Ravi to proceed to make submissions on Ms Chee’s punishment. When counsel finished, the Judge sentenced Ms Chee to ten days imprisonment.

It was then Mr J B Jeyaretnam’s turn to make submissions on Dr Chee’s behalf. Mr Jeyaretnam had earlier agreed to act for the SDP secretary-general.

Mr Jeyaretnam made two preliminary applications. The first was to invite Judge Ang to recuse herself from the matter.

“It’s a question of whether a judge should act in her own cause,” the veteran opposition politician pointed out. “You have been so much a party in the proceedings that public perception of your participation in it is important.”

Mr Jeyaretnam also wanted more time to study the facts of the case. He had received the Judge’s citations only during the weekend and have not had the time to prepare the case.

The Judge rejected both applications.

Because of the lack of time to properly brief Mr Jeyaretnam, Dr Chee said that it was not fair to expect his lawyer to argue his case effectively.

“I couldn’t leave Singapore because of my bankruptcy and Mr Jeyartenam was in Johor Barhru over the weekend,” Dr Chee cited, adding that this made it difficult to get the transcripts to his counsel.

Dr Chee accordingly discharged Mr Jeyaretnam as counsel and said that he would not be defending the charges. He would accept whatever punishment the Judge ordered.

Judge Ang then sentenced him to 12 days imprisonment. She also directed that if the defendants did not file their Notices of Appeal by the close of business day on Wednesday, 4 Jun 08, Dr Chee and Ms Chee would be jailed starting 5 Jun 08.

The defendants have applied for the $10,000 security costs to be waived in order to appeal Judge Ang’s decision. She has reserved judgment on the amount of damages the defendants have to pay to the Lees.

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