Teen accused of murdering father in Yishun remanded further as court rejects defence's request to see him
SINGAPORE: A teenager accused of killing his father in Yishun will be remanded further for police investigations after a court granted a request by the prosecution on Thursday (Oct 13).
At the same time, the court rejected the defence lawyer's request to have access to 19-year-old Sylesnar Seah Jie Kai before police investigations are completed.
Seah was charged on Wednesday with the murder of his father, 47-year-old Eddie Seah Wee Teck, between the fourth and fifth floor of Block 653, Yishun Avenue 4 on Oct 10.
The charge sheet for the capital offence did not indicate how the death of the older man was caused.
Defence lawyer Sunil Sudheesan had made three applications for access to his client on Wednesday, when Seah was first charged. He was told to file written submissions and return the next day.
On Thursday, two deputy public prosecutors took on the case and asked District Judge Terence Tay to grant them a further remand of seven days.
The prosecution said the police investigations into "a very serious charge of murder" were only at day 3, as Seah was arrested on Monday evening.
"There is much investigations that remain - crucial investigations, the continuation of statement recording, the retrieval of key evidence exhibits, as well as even bringing the accused back to the scene for site revisitation," said one of the prosecutors.
"At this stage, we submit it is premature to grant access to counsel, given that we are in (an) infancy stage of investigations."
He said the law was clear that an accused person would be granted access to counsel "within a reasonable time". The issue of what reasonable time entails factors in police investigations and procedures that are required, he added.
"This is necessary in balancing the accused's right to counsel alongside ensuring the public interest in ensuring that police investigations are completed," he said.
The defence lawyer tried to ask if his client, who was in court via video-link, had seen the written submissions he had made.
The prosecution objected to this question before confirming that Seah had not seen any of the submissions. Seah was in a red polo tee and wearing a blue mask, with his hair looking untidy.
Mr Sudheesan said the prosecution had not addressed how the defence seeing Seah for one hour would impede police investigations.
He said Singapore's laws are quite clear, that the rights of an accused person start from the day of his arrest.
"The law must protect everybody equally, but protection is only available if persons know what the law is. If laypersons do not know what the law is, they would be disadvantaged when it comes to assisting the police with full investigations," he said.
He said he would actually be assisting the police with investigations if his client were to know his possible defences, as the police and prosecution can then come to the correct charging decision.
"In this case, because it's a murder charge, the accused person should be made aware of his rights under section 300 of the penal code, which lists out the various exceptions to murder," said Mr Sudheesan.
The prosecutor responded that Mr Sudheesan would have time to speak to his client, but not at this stage.
He said there was no legal requirement for an accused person to be made aware of his defences, or to have access to counsel before any statements are recorded.
He said the prosecution would not object to the application for a Law Society pamphlet of rights to be given to Seah.
"This is a 19-year-old boy," replied Mr Sudheesan. "What is wrong with him knowing his rights? I say you should allow it to advance our justice system. I am disappointed that the prosecution is objecting, that is all."
Judge Tay agreed with the prosecution and did not grant the defence counsel access. He ordered Seah to be remanded for a week, but asked the prosecution to ensure the pamphlet of rights was given to Seah as soon as possible.
ACCUSED ASKS FOR PERMISSION TO SPEAK
At the close of the hearing, Seah raised his cuffed hands and asked to speak, saying this was "concerning my life".
"I would like to make an unreasonable request, because I have already provided all the evidence I'm very sure, and I will cooperate in any way possible ... well, the fact is the unreasonable request has to do with the sentencing of my life, it will not make much of a difference in my point of view, because if it's a life sentence ... "
The judge interjected and asked Seah to stop as he might be going into matters unsuitable to be raised in open court at this early stage.
His case will be heard again on Oct 20.
If convicted of murder, he could be sentenced to death.