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'Utterly devoid of any legal merit': Judge dismisses Lim Tean's bid to prevent police from investigating him

'Utterly devoid of any legal merit': Judge dismisses Lim Tean's bid to prevent police from investigating him

Lim Tean, Leong Sze Hian's lawyer, arriving at the High Court on Oct 6, 2020. (Photo: Gaya Chandramohan)

SINGAPORE: A judge has dismissed lawyer Lim Tean's bid to prevent the police from continuing two investigations against him, calling the application "utterly devoid of any legal merit whatsoever".

In full grounds released on Tuesday (Dec 8), Justice Ang Cheng Hock also ordered Mr Lim to pay the Attorney-General, the defendant, costs of S$7,500.

Mr Lim, 56, had sought a judicial review and a prohibiting order to stop the relevant investigating officers and the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) from investigating him for two criminal cases, as well as an order against the CAD and the police to discontinue investigations.

READ: Lim Tean arrested for alleged criminal breach of trust, under investigation for alleged stalking: Police

He is the subject of two criminal investigations - first for alleged criminal breach of trust for misappropriating S$30,000 that he received from AXA Insurance on behalf of a former client.

The second is for an allegation of unlawful stalking against a former employee, whom he allegedly invited for dinner and drinks at his home and persistently addressed with inappropriate terms like "darling" and "baby" despite her discomfort.

Justice Ang said the two investigating officers for each case jointly called Mr Lim on Sep 23 to inform him that he had to go to the Commercial Affairs Department's office on Sep 28 to answer questions related to the allegations.

Mr Lim said he would be unable to attend any interview until after Oct 9, but the police told him that he should write in formally if he wished to request for a rescheduling.

On Sep 27, a day before Mr Lim was supposed to go down to the police office, his lawyer M Ravi sent an email to the investigating officers to say that Mr Lim had "no intention of turning up for any interview" because CAD was "investigating trumped up charges" against Mr Lim which were "politically motivated".

Mr Lim did not turn up for the scheduled interview on Sep 28. After assessing that it was necessary to arrest Mr Lim as his counsel had explicitly stated that he did not intend to turn up for any police interviews, CAD officers arrested Mr Lim at his office on Oct 2.

The investigating officers attempted to interview Mr Lim, but he did not answer any of their questions on either case, said the judge.

After Mr Lim was released on bail, the police received a letter from Mr Ravi saying that his client Mr Lim was in the process of commencing legal proceedings against the Singapore Police Force "and the relevant people behind the state machinery in (these) politically motivated investigations".

Mr Lim, who is also an opposition politician, subsequently applied to the court for the judicial review and prohibiting orders. 

NO CASE PROVEN

Justice Ang on Wednesday said he found that Mr Lim had fallen far short of showing that there was an arguable case in favour of granting the remedies he sought.

"As for the prohibiting and mandatory orders sought, the plaintiff did not cite any authorities or any legal principle to support his rather remarkable contention that the court could, in appropriate circumstances, grant orders to stop the CAD and the police from continuing their investigations into complaints that had been made," said the judge.

He added that the AG's discretion to prosecute, even for criminal prosecutions the AG carries out, is subject to judicial review in only two situations: Where the prosecutorial power is abused or exercised in bad faith for an extraneous purpose, and where its exercise contravenes constitutional protections and rights.

"The plaintiff had failed to show me that the police had acted in bad faith or in contrary to the constitution in this case," said Justice Ang.

Responding to Mr Lim's allegations of collusion by the two investigating officers, the judge said Mr Lim had provided "nothing more than a bare assertion without any details and without any supporting evidence".

He added that both investigating officers had explained clearly that they scheduled to interview Mr Lim on the same date for convenience, to save him the trouble of going down twice on different days for either case.

"I found this to be a perfectly sensible, and indeed, inherently logical thing for the two officers to have done, and I am unable to comprehend the plaintiff's cause for complaint," said Justice Ang.

He added that if Mr Lim's case is that the police reports are unfounded, then it would be precisely in his interest to formally provide his statement to the CAD and police.

"The police cannot - and, indeed, should not - simply ignore a police report solely because the person under investigation has raised claims through counsel that the police report is baseless," said Justice Ang, adding that the whole purpose of investigations is to determine whether the police report has grounds or not, and whether offences have been committed.

"If a person’s statement of innocence or allegations of bad faith on the complainant’s part is enough to justify the court ordering a stop to police investigations, if that were even possible, it would make a mockery of the powers and procedures for criminal investigations set out in the Criminal Procedure Code," he said.

Mr Lim was arrested a week before representing writer Leong Sze Hian in a defamation lawsuit brought by the prime minister. After his arrest, he went on to cross-examine Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in two separate defamation trials - for Mr Leong and The Online Citizen's Terry Xu.

Source: CNA/ll(ac)

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