Yawning Bread case: AGC defends contempt-of-court law

SINGAPORE - The Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) yesterday issued a two-page statement defending the law of contempt in Singapore, following online posts made by sociopolitical blogger Alex Au.

In the statement entitled "The law of contempt and posts by Alex Au on the blog 'Yawning Bread' ", AGC said that the law of contempt exists to "protect public confidence in the administration of justice".

"Accusations of bias diminish it in the eyes of the citizen, lower it and ultimately damage the nation," said the statement.

"Such accusations can occur frequently, with the judges not being able to respond. That is why confidence in the administration of justice needs to be protected from such allegations."

Last week, Mr Au posted a letter of apology on his blog, Yawning Bread (http://yawning bread.wordpress.com) for his June 18 post, entitled "Woffles Wu case hits a nerve". He also removed the post.

In that post, he alleged that Dr Wu, a plastic surgeon, received special treatment before the Singapore courts in a recent case.

Dr Wu was fined $1,000 last month for abetting an employee to take the rap for two speeding offences. AGC had said that the post contained "serious allegations which scandalise our courts", and that his allegations were "scurrilous and false".

On Sunday, Mr Au posted a new blog entry titled "Using power to give immunity to the powerful", where he aired his views about the use of contempt of court.

AGC said: "It is misleading of Mr Au to now allege that our laws on contempt prevent debate and curtail free speech without acknowledging what he has done."

A judge can be criticised for getting the law or facts wrong, for getting the decision wrong or for imposing the wrong sentence, said the statement.

AGC clarified: "This is regularly done by lawyers, academics and lay persons. Such criticism is not contempt. There is no curtailment of free speech that would prevent such criticism.

"It is contempt, however, to say that the court was biased if there is no objective, rational basis to do so, as Alex Au did."

The statement said that the re-opening of a case is "very rarely" done, but there will be a re-opening if it is shown that an injustice has been caused.

"Judges guilty of misconduct will be dealt with through various disciplinary mechanisms, depending on whether they are district judges, or justices of the Supreme Court," AGC added.

Full statement on next page...

sujint@sph.com.sg


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