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Deputy Public Prosecutor Ms Lee Lit Cheng unbelievably made another U-turn today.
After firmly ruling out showing the video evidence in court against the Defendants, Mr Gandhi Ambalam, Dr Chee Soon Juan and Mr Yap Keng Ho, DPP Lee said that she has decided to admit the video after all.
The three men are being charged for speaking in public without a permit on 22 Apr 06 during the general elections period earlier this year.
Ms Lee said that because the Defendants have been making “spurious allegations” against the Prosecution, she decided to use the video evidence.
On the second day of the trial, the Defendants discovered that the Investigating Officer ASP Jeremy Koh, who is also one of the Prosecution’s witnesses, was sitting in the courtroom and listening to the testimony of the other police witnesses.
He was also found to have gone in and out of the witness room and talking with another witness who had yet to testify. Under the rules, this is disallowed as the witnesses can influence one another’s testimony.
Based on this and the Prosecution’s refusal to admit the video evidence, the Defendants charged that the DPP was using underhanded tactics.
Under this pressure, Ms Lee has relented and will now admit the video as evidence. She had wanted to only rely on the evidence of 12 witnesses – all police officers.
However, she now refuses to give the Defendants a copy of the tape. Judge Eddy Tham pointed out that there was no harm giving the Defence a copy of the VCD. The DPP remained defiant and, worse, refused to give a reason.
She told the Judge that the Defendants could view the tape at Jurong Police Division Headquarters but remained adamant about not giving the Defendants a copy.
Dr Chee said that at last the Prosecution had come to its senses but wanted to first verify the authenticity of the tape before agreeing to it being used in court.
He said that with everything that had gone on, including letting ASP Koh sit in on the trial while his colleagues were giving evidence, the Defendants had every right to be suspicious of the DPP’s motives and moves.
At this point, the frustrated Judge commented that it was “unfortunate” that this dispute about the authenticity of evidence should have been settled during the pre-trial conference.
Dr Chee then reminded the Judge that it was the Prosecution who first indicated that it would be using the video evidence during the trial and even agreed to give the Defendants a copy. Halfway down the line, it changed its mind. Now during the trial it has changed its mind again.
Dr Chee said that it may not be proper or correct under the rules to admit evidence halfway through a trial and, worse, to refuse to give the Defence a copy of the evidence.
Mr Eddy Tham, who had been a colleague of Ms Lee Lit Cheng as a DPP until a few weeks ago when he was promoted to a District Judge, then backtracked and ruled that the video could be admitted as evidence.
Unsurprisingly, he also agreed with Ms Lee that the Defendants need not be given a copy of the video and said that if the Defendants wanted to they could view the video at Jurong Police Division.
Mr Yap Keng Ho then protested and said this was “a joke.” He noted that on the first day of the trial, he had applied for the video evidence to be admitted but Judge Tham refused it. But now when the DPP makes the same application, the same Judge allows it.
Mr Gandhi Ambalam, shaking his head, then told the Judge that he was tired of the whole charade. He told the court that it might as well dispense with the rest of the police witnesses and just pronounce the Defendants guilty so as not to waste any more time.
Earlier in the day, the High Court dismissed Mr Yap’s Criminal Motion application to abort the trial due to ASP Koh being present throughout the testimony of the first three police witnesses. Not surprisingly, it was rejected.
Mr Ambalam and Dr Chee filed similar Criminal Motions today. Their hearing is scheduled to be heard tomorrow, 31 Oct 06, at 11 am in the High Court.
Meanwhile, Judge Eddy Tham has adjourned the hearing to the afternoon (2:30 pm) of 31 Oct 06.
If there are any lawyers who can give any legal input about evidence being admitted halfway through a trial and the Defence not given a copy of the video, please email [email protected]. Thank you.