Prosecution does U-turn and decides not to admit video ‘evidence’

October 25, 2006
Singapore Democrats

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The trial started with the defense lawyer, Mr M Ravi, announcing that he was representing only Mr Yap Keng Ho, and that Dr Chee Soon Juan and Mr Gandhi Ambalam representing themselves.

This was because Mr Ravi had other cases to take care of, including his own disciplinary hearing.

After making preliminary applications in the morning, Mr Ravi returned in the afternoon to tell the court that he had to discharge himself from acting from Mr Yap because he had his own hearing to prepare for.

In the morning Mr Ravi complained that the DPP had failed to provide a copy of the video CD and a transcript the DPP had wanted to submit as evidence. The VCD had purportedly contained recordings of the speeches that Dr Chee, Mr Gandhi Ambalam, and Mr Yap Keng Ho made on 22 Apr 06.

However, the DPP replied that there was a “change of position”and that she was now not going to use the VCD as evidence.

This raised eyebrows not to mention the suspicion of the Defendants. Mr Ambalam and Dr Chee quickly jumped on the Prosecution’s about-face. If the DPP had video evidence showing the Defendants giving speeches, why did it not want to admit it in court? It would be the surest way of ending the dispute and proving the prosecution’s case. Unless the video evidence showed otherwise.

It must be emphasized that it was the DPP who, at the pretrial conference weeks ago, said that she had the VCD recording and would tender it as evidence. (In Dr Chee’s trial in 1999, the Prosecution produced video evidence of Dr Chee at Raffles Place giving a speech.)

The Defendants then told the Court that they were going to rely on the videotape to show that the DPP did not have a case. Mr Ambalam and Mr Yap then made applications to compel the Prosecution to produce the tape. The Judge refused to grant it.

That was not all. When Dr Chee asked whether the DPP had informed Mr Ravi when she changed her mind about using the VCD, she replied that she was not sure and had to check her records.

When she returned she indicated that a letter had been sent to Mr Ravi on 15 Sep 06. Dr Chee then asked for a copy of the letter which the DPP refused to give. At this juncture Dr Chee said there was something fishy:

First, the DPP said that the Prosecution would produce video evidence of the Defendants making speeches and suddenly changed its mind. When an application was made by the Defendants to have the evidence produced, the Judge rejected it.

Second, the DPP refused to give Dr Chee a copy of the letter she said she sent to Mr Ravi’s office in September that purported to inform the Defence that the Prosecution had decided not to use the video evidence. Dr Chee charged that the DPP was making this up as she had not sent the letter, otherwise she would have offered Dr Chee a copy of the letter. Dr Chee even offered to pay for the cost of the photocopy. Again the Judge refused to direct the DPP to give Dr Chee the letter.

Instead of the VCD, the Prosecution would rely on 12 witnesses (all police officers) to make their case. The Defence was surprised yet again and complained that they were not informed of their change in strategy prior to the commencement of the case. The DPP apologized but insisted that the trial proceed, to which the judge agreed.

Based on the above, Dr Chee then pointed out that the Prosecution was given a free hand to make all the moves and reversals without giving ample notice to the Defence. Dr Chee pointed out that this was manifestly unfair and that asked Judge Eddie Tham (who was, it is understood, himself a DPP until a few weeks ago) to record that it was not possible, given the circumstances for the Defendants, to expect a fair trial.

The hearing continues in Subordinate Court No 18.