Who ought reasonably to have known?

October 25, 2008
Singapore Democrats

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Singapore Democrats

You are charged that you did participate in a procession without a permit in a public place within an area where you ought reasonably to have known that the assembly was held without the prior permission of the Deputy Commissioner of Police…” That’s the charge against the 17 Tak Boleh Tahan protesters (see Charge below).

“Reasonably” to have known? Now that’s a funny word. Reasonable to whom? Probably only to the draughtsmen of that piece of legislation. How does one ought to “reasonably” know that having more than one person assemble outside Parliament is an offence?

Apparently not even the police.

Under cross-examination by one of the defendants, Mr Carl Lang, during the hearing yesterday, police witness Sergeant Nor Hidah said that she was “not sure” whether the area around Parliament House was a gazetted place within which a gathering of more than one person needs police permission. And get this — she has been a police officer for eights years.

This begs the question, doesn’t it? If an experienced police officer doesn’t know the above requirement (and we’ll wager our last dollar that Sgt Nor Hidah is not the only police officer who doesn’t know) how does one expect the average guy to, reasonably or otherwise?

Sgt Nor Hidah is the first prosecution witness to take the stand. When hearing resumes on Tuesday, the licensing officer who rejected Dr Chee’s application for a permit to hold the 15 Mar protest will testify.

 

The Charge

You are charged that you on the 15th day of March 200, at about 2.31 pm on the drive way leading to the main entrance of the Parliament House, North Bridge Road, together with [names of the activists], did participate in a procession without a permit in a public place within the area described in the Schedule to the Miscellaneous Offences (Public Order and Nuisance)(Prohibition of Assemblies and Processions – Parliament and Supreme Court) Order, where you ought reasonably to have known that the procession was held without the prior permission of Deputy Commissioner of Police in writing in contravention of paragraph 2 of the Miscellaneous Offences (Public Order and Nuisance)(Prohibition of Assemblies and Processions – Parilament and Supreme Court) Order and you have thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 5(4)(b) of the Miscellaneous (Public Order and Nuisance) Act Chapter 184.

Janet Wang
Deputy Public Prosecutor
Singapore