High Court gives activist discount on judicial review costs

The vigil in October 2014 in Hong Lim Park to support protesters in Hong Kong fighting election restrictions, over which Mr Jolovan Wham was issued a police warning. According to Mr Wham's lawyer Choo Zheng Xi, the judge cut the legal costs sought by
The vigil in October 2014 in Hong Lim Park to support protesters in Hong Kong fighting election restrictions, over which Mr Jolovan Wham was issued a police warning. According to Mr Wham's lawyer Choo Zheng Xi, the judge cut the legal costs sought by 20 per cent to take into account aspects of the process by which the warning was issued.ST PHOTO: CAROLINE CHIA

The story has been updated.

Civil activist Jolovan Wham has received a discount from the High Court on the legal costs involved in losing a judicial review case last December.

At a hearing on Monday to assess costs,  Justice Woo Bih Li  ordered him to pay $6,063. The Attorney-General’s Chambers had suggested to the High Court that the range of costs should be between $6,263 and $7,263, including  $1,263 in disbursements (eg. filing fees, photocopying charges) incurred.

The judge  also rejected the defence's request for no costs.

Mr Wham, 35, had failed in his High Court bid last December to quash a police warning issued to him, for breaching the conditions set for a  vigil in October 2014 in Hong Lim Park to support protesters in Hong Kong fighting election restrictions.

He was meant to ensure that any foreigners taking part had a permit to attend, but failed to do so. Mr Wham was probed by police who later warned him verbally, telling him similar leniency may not be shown in future. He refused to sign the Notice of Warning and was not given a copy. Such warnings are administered on the advice of the Attorney- General after probes are completed and the findings reviewed.

Two months after he was called and issued the warning at Central Police Division in March last year, he inquired about the outcome of investigations and was told the warning had been administered in March. Police then sent a letter to say the matter was closed.

This triggered his move for a judicial review to quash the warning as he feared it would cause severe prejudice against him as it remained on record.

Justice Woo Bih Li dismissed his application but also said the "state of affairs" in relation to the manner in which the warning was issued "was not satisfactory". He said it would have been "more logical" to hand the notice of warning to Mr Wham and make a note on the police copy saying that he had refused to sign it, rather than withhold it from him. He further noted the document meant for Mr Wham was headed "Notice of Warning" but the content referred to a "stern" warning. He said if there was a difference, the terms should not be used interchangeably.

Mr Wham's lawyer Choo Zheng Xi said the judge cut the legal costs sought by 20 per cent to take into account aspects of the process by which the warning was issued.

A spokesman for the AGC said last December that police and the AGC were "reviewing the process by which stern warnings are administered and the use of the notice, in the light of the High Court's comments in the judgment".

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 03, 2016, with the headline 'High Court gives activist discount on judicial review costs'. Print Edition | Subscribe