High Court dismisses motion to question police on abuse of power

Singapore Democrats

Kan Ting ChiuThe Singapore High Court dismissed another attempt by the defence to show that the police had acted in bad faith and abused its powers when they arrested Tak Boleh Tahan protesters while allowing a similar event held by the Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE) to take place.

Readers will recall that District Judge Chia Wee Kiat had disallowed questions put to licensing officer Station Inspector Yeo Kok Leong on why the police had rejected the application Dr Chee Soon Juan made for a protest on 15 Mar 08 outside Parliament House. (See here)

Dr Chee argued that the defendants are alleging mala fide (bad faith) on the part of the police and cited the landmark decision by the House of Lords in the UK that ruled that “a man commits no crime if he infringes an invalid [policy] and has the right to challenge the validity of the [policy] before any court in which he is being tried.”

The Singapore police had declared in 2008: “Police do not issue permits for outdoor political events in public places.”

Dr Chee pointed out that the stated policy of not allowing outdoor political events is ultra vires (beyond the power of) the Constitution and is therefore invaild.

While the Constitution allows Parliament to impose restrictions of public assembly under certain consitions (such as when national security is threatened) it does not allow a total ban on such activity.

Dr Chee, together with Mr Ambalam and Mr John Tan, then applied for a Criminal Motion which is a hearing that allows the High Court to direct a District Judge to revise a decision.

High Court Judge Mr Kan Ting Chiu heard the Motion last Tuesday (10 Mar 09). Dr Chee presented the arguments he made before the trial judge to Judge Kan.

“If the courts in Singapore rule that any ‘wrong’ decision made by the police, even if it is made in bad faith, cannot be questioned then where do citizens go to seek redress?” the SDP leaders asked.

If such a situation is allowed to develop, then won’t the judicial system be complicit, or worse, aiding and abetting an act that is unlawful and unconstitutional? Worse, won’t such protection of the police encourage even more abuse of power?

“If after hearing and considering the evidence, the trial judge decides that there is no bad faith on the part of the police, then so be it,” argued Dr Chee. “But if he stops us from adducing the evidence, then how is he going to see the whole picture and come to a just decision?”

Shockingly the two Deputy Public Prosecutors Han Ming Kwang and Isaac Tan did not counter the authorities Dr Chee cited or attempt to rebut the legal points. Instead they chose to make arguments that had no legal basis:

First, they accused the defence of deliberately delaying the trial.

Second, they said that the Criminal Motion was premature because it was only the second witness.

Third, they cited that Dr Chee and Mr Ambalam had taken up criminal motions in other cases and those motions were dismissed.

While Dr Chee argued on the law and showed overwhelming legal precedence that it was important for defendants to question witnesses in order to prove mala fide, the DPPs made no such effort in rebuttal.

At the end of the arguments Judge Kan acknowledged that questions regarding abuse of power were “not irrelevant considerations.” Despite this he dismissed the motion.

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