Defendants pressure DPP into releasing copies of video recording

November 2, 2006
Singapore Democrats

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Judge Eddy Tham today ruled that the Prosecution had to provide copies of the video recording it wanted to admit as evidence to Mr Gandhi Ambalam, Dr Chee Soon Juan, and Mr Yap Keng Ho.

The three men are charged with speaking in public without a permit during the period just before the elections in May this year.

Deputy Public Prosecutor had steadfastly refused to admit the video as evidence even though she had said that she would so during the pre-trial conference a few months ago.

In place of the video evidence, the Prosecution was going to rely on evidence provided by 12 police officers.

During the testimony of the the first three witnesses, however, it was discovered that the twelfth and final witness, ASP Jeremy Koh, was present in the courtroom. He was also seen going in and out of the witness room and talking with other police witnesses.

The Defendants pointed out that the trial had been compromised and the evidence tainted. The three made separate Criminal Motions to the High Court to abort the trial. These were, however, rejected by the High Court Judge.

Under pressure for committing this basic faux pas, the DPP then belatedly offered to tender the video recording as evidence.

This second about-face (the first was when she decided not to use video after she had indicated that she would initially) could also be a result of her needing to avoid any more mis-steps that may have arisen out of the intense cross-examination of the police officers by the Defendants.

(For example, the evidence given by the first police witness was found wanting when he said that he had received a complaint from a member of the public at around 9 am and thereafter immediately dispatched a call to the Operations Room at HQ which took at most 2 to 3 minutes to put through. Asked later what time he made this call to the Operations Room, the witness said 9:30 to 9:45 am!

The Defence pounced on this discrepancy. The witness then quickly, with the help of the DPP and the Judge, changed his story and said that he meant that he had informed his Team Leader and not the Operations Room at the said period of between 9:30 and 9:45 am.)

But even as DPP Ms Lee Lit Cheng relented to admitting the video recording as evidence, she obstinately refused to provide the Defendants with copies of the VCD.

Having had enough of the Prosecution’s shenanigans, Mr Ambalam and Dr Chee then told Judge Eddy Tham that as long as the Defendants were not given a copy of the video evidence, they were not interested in participating in the trial.

As a result, on several occasions when the two Defendants were asked if they had any response to the DPP’s subsequent statements regarding the admission of video recording as evidence, Mr Ambalam and Dr Chee chose to remain silent.

Judge Tham then ruled that the video recording be admitted and directed the Prosecution to provide the Defendants with copies.

Dr Chee then told the Judge that a week of everyone’s time could have been saved if the Prosecution had agreed to use the video evidence right from the beginning.

The SDP leader then offered that he was willing to save the Court time by dispensing with the remainder of the police eye-witnesses now that the video recording was going to be used instead.

Hearing continues tomorrow at 10:30 am.