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'Legal opportunism prevailed' in Kho Jabing case: AGC

The Attorney-General's Chambers reiterates that the actions of Kho Jabing’s three lawyers amounted to an abuse of court processes.

SINGAPORE: After every legitimate avenue for legal challenge had been attempted and exhausted in the case of convicted murderer Kho Jabing, "legal opportunism prevailed", the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) said.

The AGC issued a statement to "set the record straight" concerning the multiple applications filed by Kho's three lawyers - Mr Gino Singh, Ms Jeannette Chong-Aruldoss and Mr Alfred Dodwell. It reiterated an earlier assertion that their actions in the lead-up to his execution, were an abuse of court processes.

Last Thursday and Friday, the Court of Appeal dismissed two applications by Kho's lawyers in bid to get a stay of execution. The AGC said in these appeals, the lawyers repeatedly raised old arguments that had either been dismissed by the Court or withdrawn by Kho's previous lawyer in the review, Mr Chandra Mohan.

For example, Mr Singh tried to argue that Kho’s eventual death sentence was not proper because one of the Court of Appeal judges, Andrew Phang Boon Leong should not have heard both appeals. However, Mr Mohan had tried to make the same argument during the review but dropped it subsequently.

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should have known that it is improper to file a fresh application containing the same ground that had been previously withdrawn," AGC said. 

In addition, the AGC said knowing that the criminal process had been exhausted, Ms Chong-Aruldoss and Mr Dodwell tried to "skirt around the law" by raising their arguments under the civil process instead.

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

In a separate statement, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said several inaccurate points have been made in relation to the legal process in the case of Kho. It noted that Kho was represented by counsel throughout. "He was given every opportunity to file appeals, apply for re-sentencing consequent to amendments to the mandatory death penalty regime under the Penal Code, and petition the President for clemency," MHA stated.

However, MHA said, the last-minute applications by his lawyers after the date for the execution was set showed a "pattern which was to be repeated more than once", of appeals supposedly based on "new" arguments when no such arguments were presented in reality. 

"It appeared that the sole purpose of the applications was to try and delay the execution which had been set," MHA said.

Executions are traditionally carried out before 6am on Fridays. However, Kho was executed in the afternoon last Friday, following the hearing of a last-minute appeal for a stay of execution.

"After the Court of Appeal dismissed the applications, the sentence was carried out on the date which had been fixed, May 20, 2016," MHA said.