NParks bikes case: Apex court declines to answer prosecution's question

SINGAPORE - The criminal case that arose out of the Brompton bicycles saga, which saw a former NParks assistant director fined $5,000 for lying to auditors, came to a close on Friday with the country's highest court declining to answer a question posed by the prosecution.

Last June, Bernard Lim Yong Soon, 43, was fined $5,000 by a district court for giving false information to auditors about his relationship with a bike supplier. This was upheld by the High Court, dismissing the prosecution's appeal for jail.

In February, the prosecution, in a procedure known as a criminal reference, took the case to the Court of Appeal, asking it to determine when a jail term is warranted for such offences.

The three-judge court had then declined to give a ruling based on the present question of law submitted, but gave the prosecution two weeks to re-submit a "more appropriately framed" question.

But the reframed question was also rejected by the court, which dismissed the prosecution's application on Friday.

In the judgement, delivered by Judge of Appeal Chao Hick Tin, the court said that the question was not a question of law of public interest.

Under the law, the procedure of criminal reference is only reserved for the court to determine questions of law of public interest.

But in the current case, the prosecution was in effect seeking a ruling on a benchmark sentence for such an offence.

"The truth of the matter is that a question concerning sentence, which is necessarily fact-sensitive, cannot be camouflaged as a question of law," said the court.

A spokesman for the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) noted that the Court of Appeal "has explained how and when it considers it appropriate to exercise its powers under the Criminal Reference mechanism".

The AGC will study the grounds of decision very carefully, she said.