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28 Nov 07
The second day of the trial of Dr Chee Soon Juan and Mr Yap Keng Ho saw the police making a hash of their own evidence.
The two men are being charged with speaking without a permit on 8 April 07 at the Woodlands MRT Station while selling SDP’s newspaper, The New Democrat.
The second prosecution witness, Station Inspector Charles Soon Fook Kong, took the stand and testified that he had directed his colleague, Sgt Lam Tien Chiang, to take photographs of the area where the SDP members were selling its newspaper.
Mr Soon said that he did this at around 5 pm after the SDP had left the area. The photographs were tended in court as exhibits.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Lim Tse Haw affirmed that the time the photographs were taken (as indicated on the envelope containing the photographs) was 5 pm.
Upon cross-examination, however, Dr Chee pointed out that one of the photographs showed a clock on the MRT Station which showed 3:47 pm.
During the lunch break the DPP, upon the defendants’ request, had the photograph enlarged.
Upon closer scrutiny, DPP Lim agreed that the time shown on the photograph was indeed 3:47 pm: “The hand on the left side is between 9 and 10, and the hand of the right side is between 3 and 4”.
“In conventional terms,” Dr Chee added, “the clock indicates three forty-seven pm. Is that right?”
“Yes,” the Prosecutor said.
Turning to SI Charles Soon, Dr Chee asked if the witness agreed that the time in the photograph shown was 3:47 pm. Mr Soon agreed.
“Then why did you tell the court that the time the photographs were taken was five pm?” Dr Chee asked.
“You must ask Sgt Lam this question. He was the one who took the photographs,” Mr Soon replied.
Which was what DPP Lim Tse Haw did. During the lunch break, the DPP had approached Sgt Lam about the “discrepancy”.
Sgt Lam replied that it was a typographical error but added that he was not the one who had typed the information on the envelope. That was the Crime Department’s job.
Be that as it may, what was DPP Lim doing talking to Sgt Lam who was going to be one of the witnesses?
“Is it proper for the DPP to communicate this to Sergeant Lam during the break?” Dr Chee enquired.
Judge Jasvender Kaur replied that the DPP knows the rules of court and that there was nothing wrong for the DPP to communicate with a witness as long as he didn’t coach or influence the witness.
“But the DPP was communicating with a witness who had yet to take the stand about proceedings that had taken place in the courtroom,” Dr Chee argued.
In the ensuing exchange with Judge Kaur, Dr Chee pointed out that in his previous trial, an investigation officer who was present in the courtroom was seen communicating with other police witnesses who had not yet testified.
The judge, Eddie Tham, had then said that the incident was “regrettable” and admitted that it was “not proper” for the officer to be in the courtroom while his colleagues gave evidence.
The only different in the present case was the DPP, and not the investigating officer, who had communicated with a witness about something that had transpired during court proceedings.
“Why couldn’t the DPP ask Sergeant Lam the question in court when the witness took the stand and was under oath?” Dr Chee asked.
The Judge turned to the DPP.
“My point is that I saw the need to clarify with Sergeant Lam,” DPP Lim replied.
“I think we all saw the need for Sergeant Lam to clarify the discrepancy,” Dr Chee countered. “But that’s not my question. The question I asked was why couldn’t you ask the sergeant the question on the stand instead of during the lunch break?”
DPP Lim replied: “Sergeant Lam hasn’t come to the stand yet.”
“Again you have avoided answering my question. I know Mr Lam hasn’t taken the stand yet. But my question, once again, is: Why could you not have clarified with Sergeant Lam the discrepancy when he takes the stand instead of doing it out of court?” Dr Chee repeated.
Judge Kaur stepped in, declared that the DPP had answered Dr Chee’s question and adjourned the hearing.
Readers can judge for themselves whether the DPP was prevaricating or not.
The hearing continues tomorrow at 9:30 am at Subordinate Court 7