Law was fine until courts' new interpretation

We refer to Mr Patrick Tan Siong Kuan's letter (How many other critical laws of ours are outdated?; Forum Online, Feb 24).

The Government's position on the sentences in the City Harvest Church case has been clearly stated in Parliament.

A senior officer or director in an organisation is in a position of greater trust. If that trust is abused, the officer should be more culpable and liable for more severe punishment compared with an ordinary employee.

Over the last 40 years, the law, as applied by the courts, reflected this principle - that directors are liable for the aggravated offence.

This position was clear, settled law. There were at least 16 reported decisions applying this principle.

There was no suggestion that the law was in need of any review and, accordingly, no reason for Parliament to review the law.

This was until the courts decided to depart from this established position, in this case. With the new interpretation by the courts, we will move to amend the law.

Mr Tan may also wish to note that the accused persons in the City Harvest Church case were charged with an aggravated form of criminal breach of trust, not corruption.

With regard to bail, the usual means to deter a person from absconding while on bail is that the bail may be forfeited.

This is the position in many jurisdictions.

As long as bail exists, the risk of absconding cannot be entirely eliminated.

The ministries of Home Affairs and Law have, last year, reviewed provisions relating to bail and proposed changes through legislation.

Sunny Lee
Director, Media Relations
Ministry of Home Affairs

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 02, 2018, with the headline 'Law was fine until courts' new interpretation'. Subscribe