City Harvest verdict: AGC to work with ministries on revisions to Penal Code

City Harvest verdict: AGC to work with ministries on revisions to Penal Code

File photo of Supreme Court
The entrance of the Supreme Court in Singapore.

SINGAPORE: The Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) said it will work with the relevant ministries on "the appropriate revisions to the Penal Code" following the Apex court's decision on Thursday (Feb 1) to uphold the convictions and sentences of the City Harvest Church's six leaders.

This is to ensure that company directors and other persons in similar positions of trust and responsibility are subject to appropriate punishments if they commit criminal breach of trust, the AGC said in its response to the Court of Appeal's decision.

"In coming to this decision, the Court of Appeal overruled a 1976 High Court decision, which had held that company directors could be convicted for criminal breach of trust under section 409 of the Penal Code. 

"That was the position consistently taken by the courts since 1976, until the High Court which heard the Magistrate’s Appeal for the present case departed (by a 2-1 majority) from the position in the 1976 High Court decision," the statement from the AGC said.

The AGC added that the Court of Appeal's ruling on the City Harvest case means that that "company directors, as well as governing board members or key officers of charities and officers of societies, who commit criminal breach of trust of company property are only liable to be punished under section 406 of the Penal Code (Criminal Breach of Trust simpliciter), which provides for a maximum sentence of 7 years’ imprisonment."

The AGC said: "In contrast, employees of a company who commit criminal breach of trust are liable for up to 15 years’ imprisonment."

In Thursday morning's hearing, the Court of Appeal found in favour of City Harvest Church’s Kong Hee and five others, rejecting the prosecution’s bid to reinstate the original convictions and sentences of the six church leaders.

This means Kong, his former deputy Tan Ye Peng and senior members Chew Eng Han, John Lam, Serina Wee and Sharon Tan will continue to serve reduced jail terms of seven months to three and a half years, slashed from between 21 months and eight years. 

During the hearing, Judge of Appeal Andrew Phang acknowledged the “lacuna,” or gap, in the law brought to light in this case, but he said the five-judge Court of Appeal would not “paper over” it. 

“A hard case should not be allowed to make bad law,” Judge Phang said. “The shaping of a remedy should be left to Parliament,” he added.

Source: CNA/mn