Home Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam has weighed in on the case of the City Harvest Church appeal, saying that the media is reporting that the CHC case is over but "the matter is not over yet".
The Law Minister was speaking to the media on 8 April, ahead of his interfaith dialogue session with youths organised by racial and religious harmony body OnePeople.sg.
In response to media queries, Shanmugam shared that the government agreed with the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) that the original sentences were too low,
Now if you look at the background, AGC believed that the original sentence, say for example, 8 years for Pastor Kong Hee and the sentences for the others was too low, which is why they appealed. And they told us they were appealing, they told the government. and they gave their reasons to us, and the government believed that the original sentences….were too low as well.
The High Court has disagreed (the High Court in this case sitting with three judges) but if you look at it in terms of judges including the lower court judge, two judges thought either the sentences should be as they are, or higher. Two judges felt that it should be lower, and a key reason for the majority judgement was to consider directors to be not agents. So they took the existing important charge and replaced it with a lower charge. and that resulted in a lower sentence.
Judgement may have serious implications on corruption cases
Shanmugam added that the government see that this legal reasoning will have "serious implications" in future corruption cases especially when it comes to the government's "zero tolerance approach" on corruption.
Everyone has a right to discuss and critise judgements
While Shanmugam acknowledged that the public as a right to discuss and criticise High Court judgements, he urged the public to be careful not to "[abuse] judges personally, or [suggest] improper ulterior motives for the judgements".
So what next?
Shanmugam noted the Court's feedback on the way the matter was handled by the prosecution.
I’ve asked the new Attorney General and the new Deputy Attorney General to look into this. It may take time, but we’ve got good people at the top and they should be able to deal with it.
Context: More about the CHC case
Shanmugam was speaking after the public learnt yesterday that all 6 City Harvest Church leaders would get reduced sentences following the appeal.
Many online were dismayed by their significant reductions in sentences --Kong Hee received a 56 per cent discount on his, Sharon Tan got hers cut by two-thirds, while Serina Wee and John Lam enjoyed 50 per cent cuts to theirs, for instance.
CHC leaders' reduced sentence at a glance
Judge of Appeal Chao Tick Hin, on behalf Justices Woo Bih Li and Chan Seng Onn read out the decision in court yesterday, reducing their sentences from 21 months to 8 years, to between 7 months and 3 years 6 months.
Here are their reduced sentences at a glance:
1) Kong Hee, 52, CHC co-founder
JUDGES' DECISION: Conviction upheld. Sentence reduced from 8 years to 3 years and 6 months jail.
2) Chew Eng Han, 55, former CHC fund manager
JUDGES' DECISION: Conviction upheld. Sentence reduced from 6 years to 3 years four months jail.
3) Tan Ye Peng, 43, founding member and deputy senior pastor
JUDGES' DECISION: Conviction upheld. Sentence reduced from 5.5 years to 3 years 2 months jail
4) Serina Wee, 39, former CHC finance manager
JUDGES' DECISION: Conviction upheld. Sentence reduced from 5 years to 2.5 years jail.
5) John Lam, 47, former CHC finance committee member
JUDGES' DECISION: Conviction upheld. Sentence reduced from 3 years to 18 months jail.
6) Sharon Tan, 40, former CHC finance manager who took over from Wee
JUDGES' DECISION: Conviction upheld. Sentence reduced from 21 months to 7 months jail.
Their sentences are deferred two weeks from today, for Sharon, two months from now.
Here are some slightly unrelated but nonetheless interesting articles:
Read all our other City Harvest appeal stories because they will make you smarter, we hope:
Top photo by Martino Tan