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28 Nov 07
The controversy over a mistake made by the prosecution team deepened on the third day of Dr Chee Soon Juan’s and Mr Yap Keng Ho’s trial at the Subordinate Courts.
The fourth police witness, Staff Sergeant Lam Tien Chiang, took the stand today and gave evidence that directly contradicted what DPP Lim Tse Haw told the Judge.
At issue were four photographs that were stapled together inside a pink paper jacket. Printed on the cover was the time that the photographs were taken.
The copies that were given to the Judge and the defendants were marked 1545 hrs (3:45 pm). The DPP’s copy read 1700 hrs (5 pm).
When queried by defendants, DPP Lim said in court yesterday that there was an error and the correct time was 5 pm and not 3:45 pm.
Mr Lim told the Judge that he had checked with Sgt Lam during a break yesterday about the discrepancy and Sgt Lam had told him that it was a typographical error and that the time indicated should have been 5 pm (see here).
Shockingly when Sgt Lam took the stand today he said under cross-examination by Dr Chee that no one, not even DPP Lim, had mentioned to him about the time error on the pink cover sheet.
This was what transpired according to Judge Jasvender Kaur’s record:
Dr Chee: Did anyone talk to you about the error here (holding up the pink sheet and pointing to the time that the photographs were taken)?
Sgt Lam: No.
Dr Chee: Did the DPP talk to you about this error?
Sgt Lam: No.
Dr Chee: Did the DPP mention to you at all about the error or discrepancy?
Sgt Lam: No.
Dr Chee: At anytime before you took the stand today did the DPP mention anything to you at all?
Sgt Lam: No.
The police witness had earlier testified that it was the first time that he had come to know of the errors when he went into the witness box.
This directly contradicted what DPP Lim Tse Haw told the court yesterday. He said (again from the Judge’s record): “With respect to the typographical error on the cover sheet of why my copy showed 1700 hours and others showed 1545 hours, Sergeant Lam told me that he did not prepare the cover sheet. That was done by the crime clerk.”
At this juncture Dr Chee asked the Judge to send Sgt Lam back to the Witness Room so that he could clarify the matter with the DPP out of the witness’ earshot.
DPP Lim then explained: “I think Sergeant Lam was there when I spoke to ASP Jeremy Koh and Inspector Jason Lim…”
Dr Chee interjected: “What do you mean ‘think’. If Sergeant Lam had spoken to you, how can you only ‘think’ he was there.”
The DPP would only repeat: “I think he was there.” And then added: “The situation was very dynamic.”
Judge Kaur then explained to the DPP what Dr Chee was getting at: If Sergeant Lam had spoken to Mr Lim as the DPP had indicated, then he cannot say he ‘thinks’ Sergeant Lam was present.
It was only then that the DPP was willing to confirm that Sergeant Lam was present at the meeting.
The flustered DPP even objected to the use of the word “meeting”. “It was not a meeting!” Mr Lim insisted.
“All right,” said Dr Chee, “is ‘a get-together’ any better?”
Dr Chee pursued: “And why is it only now that the DPP is telling us that he had met with ASP Jeremy Koh and Inspector Jason Lim when he said nothing at all about these two yesterday. Remember, Your Honour, both ASP Koh and Inspector Lim are also witnesses who have yet to give evidence.”
Given that the information was coming out in bits and pieces and contradictory with Sgt Lam’s testimony, Dr Chee asked for the DPP to take the stand.
“I would like DPP Lim to tell the court under oath exactly what happened when he met with the officers. Otherwise he should give a sworn statement as to what transpired,” Dr Chee said.
Judge Kaur said no to both applications.
And when asked when did he meet the officers, the DPP said he could not remember.
“What do you mean you can’t remember? You must have met with them either yesterday or the day before. The trial started on only Tuesday. Did you meet them on Tuesday or Wednesday?”
The Prosecutor thumbed through his notes, turned to his assistant who was furiously checking through her notes on her laptop, and then said that he could not remember.
He then asked the Judge for help as to when the error on the pink cover sheet was first raised.
“I think it was raised shortly after the trial began on Tuesday,” Judge Kaur said, referring to her record.
Incredibly, Mr Lim replied: “Yes, then it must have been Tuesday or Wednesday.”
An exasperated Dr Chee said: “We know that it was on Tuesday or Wednesday! It has to be, because the trial started on Tuesday and today is Thursday. So when did the get-together take place: Tuesday or Wednesday?”
Then came the mother of all prevarications: “Yes, either Tuesday or Wednesday.”
(A interesting test: Can readers remember whom you met and where you were either yesterday or the day before? Is it so hard to recall events over the last two days?)
“I am not asking you something that took place a year ago. I am asking you to remember events that happened only one or two days ago,” Dr Chee pointed out. “Besides, we were in court all day these past two days. Surely it can’t be difficult to remember which day you met with the witnesses.”
“I can’t remember,” DPP Lim insisted.
“You can’t remember or you don’t want to remember?” Dr Chee said.
Judge Kaur came to the rescue: “He said he can’t remember.”
Since he couldn’t get a straight answer from Mr Lim, Dr Chee then turned to the DPP’s assistant, Ms Wendy Yap, who was seated beside Mr Lim taking notes.
Dr Chee had wanted to know if Ms Yap had spoken to any of the police witnesses and, if yes, when.
“I am the lead prosecutor and any questions should be asked of me,” Mr Lim insisted.
“I just want her to confirm if she had spoken to any of the witnesses on her own without DPP Lim knowing,” Dr Chee said.
Judge Kaur turned to Ms Yap and asked if she would like to respond.
“I was in and out of the room and saw DPP Lim talking to some of the witnesses but I didn’t hear what was being said,” the assistant DPP replied.
The Judge ended the session which had gone past 6 pm.
Will Sgt Lam Tien Chiang change his testimony? Or will DPP Lim Tse Haw change his story? Or will some other explanation be found overnight?
Find out when the hearing continues tomorrow when Sgt Lam gets back into the witness box