Jabing Kho's lawyers abused court processes, says AGC

Lawyers Jeannette Chong-Aruldoss (left) and Alfred Dodwell (right) for convicted murderer Jabing Kho leaving the Supreme court on May 20.
Lawyers Jeannette Chong-Aruldoss (left) and Alfred Dodwell (right) for convicted murderer Jabing Kho leaving the Supreme court on May 20.PHOTO: AFP

The Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) said yesterday that the lawyers of convicted murderer Jabing Kho had abused court processes by filing multiple applications last week in a bid to delay his execution.

Lawyers Gino Hardial Singh, Jeannette Chong-Aruldoss and Alfred Dodwell had mounted last-minute challenges against Kho's execution, which had been set for last Friday.

"This was a case where, after every legitimate avenue for legal challenge had been attempted and exhausted, legal opportunism prevailed," the AGC said in a statement.

In a separate statement, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said "several inaccurate points have been made in relation to the legal process".

Kho "was given every opportunity to file appeals, apply for re-sentencing" after the law on death penalty was amended, and to petition the President for clemency.

It was only after the apex court dismissed his applications that his sentence was carried out on the date which had been fixed, it said.

Both statements come amid online discussions on Kho's case.

Kho, a Malaysian, was executed on Friday afternoon. He had bludgeoned construction worker Cao Ruyin with a tree branch while robbing him in 2008. Cao's skull was shattered and he died six days later.

The AGC said both the High Court and Court of Appeal had considered Kho's case twice - once when he was first charged and again after the law on the mandatory death penalty for murder was amended in 2012.

In both instances, he had been sentenced to death. But though his right of appeal had been exhausted, the apex court gave him a further opportunity to present arguments for his case to be reviewed, said the AGC.

Mr Singh, Ms Chong-Aruldoss and Mr Dodwell were in court to try to quash Kho's death sentence.

The AGC said "the actions of (the) three lawyers amounted to an abuse of court processes".

First, they had repeatedly raised old arguments that had already been dismissed or were withdrawn by Kho's previous lawyer, Mr Chandra Mohan, when the case was heard previously. The AGC said Mr Singh had rehashed an argument Mr Mohan had tried to make but dropped, by arguing that Kho's death sentence was tainted by apparent bias as Judge of Appeal Andrew Phang had sat in both appeals.

"Mr Singh should have known that it is improper to file a fresh application containing the same ground that had been previously withdrawn," the AGC added.

The Court of Appeal had pointed this out last week, and held it was not improper for Justice Phang to have heard both: The 2011 appeal was to decide if Kho should be found guilty, while the 2015 appeal was to decide on his punishment.

Second, Ms Chong-Aruldoss and Mr Dodwell had tried to "skirt around the law" by trying to raise their arguments under the civil process after they had exhausted the criminal process, the AGC added.

"Both should have known full well that this type of collateral attack on a criminal decision was an abuse of the legal process," it said.

Third, the two lawyers asked for the hearings to be postponed last week, citing insufficient time to prepare. But Mr Dodwell was eventually able to argue the appeal, it added.

"The actions of Mr Singh, Mr Dodwell and Ms Chong-Aruldoss are not in keeping with the paramount duty a lawyer owes to the Court. It is wrong for any lawyer to assert that his duty to the client allows the court's processes to be abused."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 26, 2016, with the headline 'Jabing Kho's lawyers abused court processes, says AGC'. Print Edition | Subscribe