Home Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam, speaking in Parliament today (5 Feb), said that the Government believes the City Harvest Church (CHC) sentences are too low, and will move to ensure legislation provides for higher penalties for senior officers who commit criminal breaches of trust (CBT).
He was reflecting the Government's position on the apex court’s decision last week to uphold shorter jail terms for CHC founder Kong Hee and five other former church leaders accused of misusing church funds amounting to millions.
Read the full report from The Straits Times Online.
Source: “Parliament: Government believes sentences in City Harvest case too low, gap in CBT law to be amended soon, says Shanmugam (The Straits Times Online, 5 Feb 2018)
Photo: The Straits Times. Copyright © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Used with permission.
Parliament: Government believes sentences in City Harvest case too low, gap in CBT law to be amended soon, says Shanmugam
SINGAPORE - The Government believes the sentences in the City HarvestChurch case were too low, and will ask Parliament to amend the law soon toensure that legislation provides for higher penalties for directors and othersenior officers who commit criminal breach of trust (CBT), said Minister forHome Affairs and Law K. Shanmugam.
"We hope to make the amendment together with the otherwide-ranging amendments to the Penal Code," he told Parliament on Monday(Feb 5), in the wake of a court ruling which resulted in lower sentences in thehigh-profile case.
Last Thursday, the Court of Appeal upheld a ruling made bythe High Court in April last year that Section 409 of the Penal Code, whichprovides for heavier punishments for certain classes of people who commit CBT,cannot be applied to City Harvest founder Kong Hee and five others who misusedmillions of church funds.
On Monday, Mr Shanmugam told the House that the apex court'sruling was contrary to the legal position that has been applied by the courts inSingapore for the past 40 years, following a 1976 High Court decision thatcompany directors are liable for aggravated liability under Section 409.
There are at least 16 reported court decisions, and manyother unreported decisions, reflecting this principle, said Mr Shanmugam.
The apex court's decision means that there is now a lacuna,or a gap, in the law, he added.
As the law now stands, company directors or key officers ofcharities can no longer be charged under Section 409, which carries the maximumof life imprisonment.
They can only be charged under Section 406, which ispunishable by up to seven years' jail.
However, ordinary employees are covered under Section 408,which provides for up to 15 years' jail.
Mr Shanmugam highlighted that the Court of Appealacknowledged this gap in the law in its judgment, saying that there was no"good policy reason" to ignore the "heightened culpability"of directors and key officers of charities and societies.
"If you're a senior officer, director in theorganisation you're in a position of greater trust, you've considerableauthority to make decisions in relation to the organisation's assets. If youabuse that trust, you should be more culpable and you should be liable for moresevere punishments compared to an ordinary employee. That's really common senseand there can be no question about that," he said.
Mr Shanmugam added that the court's decision should berespected and that judges should not be personally attacked.
The minister stressed he was aware that many have expressedtheir dissatisfaction with the outcome. Netizens have said that the judges letoff the rich, or that some judges were lenient because they were Christians.
He said comments should not "sink to the level ofabuse, insult and contempt".
"That is not right. Judges should not be personallyattacked... just because people do not agree with their decisions," hesaid.