High Court rejects appeal for stiffer fine for demolition of conserved building in Geylang

SINGAPORE - A condominium developer which tore down a conserved bungalow in Geylang and constructed a new building in its place without the permission of the authorities was fined $12,000 in June.

The prosecution appealed to the High Court for a fine of about $200,000, arguing that the original sentence was mere a slap on the wrist and did not send an adequate signal that such conduct amounted to the most serious type of unauthorised works.

On Wednesday, Judicial Commissioner See Kee Oon turned down the prosecution's appeal in this case, citing procedural fairness, although he suggested that the outcome in future cases may well be different.

Development 26, the real estate firm building a condo on Lorong 26 Geylang, had demolished a bungalow on the site and erected a replica, which is as yet uncompleted due to a stop-work order.

In June, the firm pleaded guilty to two charges of contravening the Planning Act in the Night Court, which deals with summonses for regulatory offences issued by various government departments and is presided by a district judge.

On Wednesday, Judicial Commissioner See rejected the prosecution's appeal for a stiffer fine, saying that he did not think the sentence was unjust.

He noted that the fine imposed by the district judge was based on what was presented to him by the Urban Redevelopment Authority prosecutor, who had asked for a fine of between $6,000 and $8,000 on each charge.

The judicial commissioner said the prosecution cannot present the case as a "garden variety breach" in the first instance and then appeal to try to correct its mistake.

He added that all these could have been averted if the prosecuting agencies had consulted the Attorney-General's Chambers before proceeding.

selinal@sph.com.sg