A-G calls for bold approach in cases involving vulnerable

Attorney-General Lucien Wong speaks during the Q and A after delivering his lecture on Prosecution in the Public Interest.

When he first took the post in January, Attorney-General Lucien Wong was especially concerned about offences involving the sexual abuse of minors and those against foreign domestic workers, as they belong to "exceptionally vulnerable segments" of society.

"If minors and domestic workers suffer at the hands of those that are supposed to care for them, they have very limited means of reporting the abuse and getting help," he said at the Singapore Law Review Lecture yesterday.

In the past months, he said he has seen cases in these two areas that have "shocked his conscience", which is why he tells his colleagues in the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) to take a bold approach on such cases to vindicate the public interest.

He said it is often the case that offences against the two categories are difficult to prove from an evidential point of view, as objective evidence is rare and the cases may turn on the testimony of the victims, if they are alive.

"In cases where the victim has succumbed to his or her injuries, the task for us as prosecutors is even more difficult. Yet the impetus for us to act must be even greater, since an innocent life has been lost," added Mr Wong.

But far from being slow to act or trying to plead down in what may be an "uphill task", he said the prosecution will pursue the case and prefer more serious charges if the justice of the case requires it, though the chances of conviction are higher if less serious charges are pursued.

"If we obtain a conviction, the cause of justice would have been vindicated. But we will not shy away from trying the difficult cases, simply because we cannot guarantee a conviction. Because that is what the public interest and justice demand of us," said Mr Wong.

Such challenges and demands explain why the lot of a prosecutor is seldom the envy of anyone, he added, recalling someone senior who quipped that he "has not come across anyone who has said he likes the A-G".

Pointing out that this is a multifaceted and complicated task requiring the balancing of many competing factors, Mr Wong said that "ultimately, the final guarantor is the quality, integrity and compassion of the men and women to whom this crucial task is entrusted".

" And on this , I am very fortunate, because the deputy public prosecutors who assist me in the AGC are some of the most dedicated and committed lawyers I have ever had the privilege of working with."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 20, 2017, with the headline A-G calls for bold approach in cases involving vulnerable. Subscribe