Michael Fay case comes alive in gallery to commemorate State Courts' history

Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon and Presiding Judge of the State Courts, Justice See Kee Oon, touring the State Courts Heritage Gallery on Nov 19, 2019.
Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon and Presiding Judge of the State Courts, Justice See Kee Oon, touring the State Courts Heritage Gallery on Nov 19, 2019.ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

SINGAPORE - From the Michael Fay vandalism case in 1994 to the City Harvest Church saga in 2015, the public can relive court cases that have gripped society at a gallery in the new State Courts Towers.

The State Courts Heritage Gallery chronicles the district courts' progress, and highlights memorable cases that have sparked change.

It was launched on Tuesday (Nov 19) by Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, in conjunction with the Bicentennial celebrations, and will open to the public in December.

Presiding Judge of the State Courts, Justice See Kee Oon, said the gallery seeks to commemorate the progress the nation has achieved over the years, and the important role played by the State Courts through that journey.

"To enhance the visitor experience in the Heritage Gallery, many of the exhibits use interactive, technology-enabled features to stimulate the senses and stir the imagination of the viewers," said Justice See, in his opening speech on Tuesday.

Highlights of the gallery include a digital display of 15 high-profile cases heard in the district courts over the last four decades.

This includes the City Harvest Church saga in 2015, which highlighted a gap in the criminal breach of trust law after the church leaders involved were given lower sentences upon appeal.

The 1994 Michael Fay vandalism incident is also among the 15. The American teenager was caned for vandalising cars and public property despite great pressure from the United States, with then-US president Bill Clinton making a personal appeal for clemency.

Said Justice See: "The cases serve as a testament to the State Courts' important role in dispensing justice and upholding law and order in different periods of Singapore's development."

The new State Courts Towers. ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

Visitors can also observe past court proceedings in a mock courtroom in the gallery. The Heritage Courtroom is equipped with video displays that re-enact three criminal cases that took place in the district courts over different time periods, the most recent one being the 2016 Yang Yin case, where the Chinese tour guide was tried and found guilty of misappropriating $1.1 million from a wealthy widow.

These three cases would showcase the courtroom's transition from a traditional paper-based one, to a modern paper-light environment, said Justice See.

As the courtrooms in the new State Courts Towers have undergone a major architectural overhaul, the mock courtroom is designed to pay homage to traditional courtrooms and is modelled after one from 1975. Its wall panels, made of Meranti wood, were taken from courtrooms in the State Courts' existing building.

Said Justice See: "The idea is to recreate an atmosphere where visitors would feel as though they have travelled back in time."

Other key features of the gallery include an interactive display table that highlights the new and old State Courts buildings' architectural features through text, photographs and videos.


It also details the past iterations of courthouses here, and shows how the buildings and places have since evolved.

A separate digital art centrepiece focuses on State Courts' initiatives over the years, like the counselling and psychological support services the district courts established in July 2018.

The gallery is located on the first floor of the new State Courts Towers and will open to the public on Dec 16, the same day the building begins operations.

It will be open during the courts' operating hours from Monday to Saturday.