City Harvest Church Case: Apex Court Upholds Reduced Sentences For Six
The highest court stands by the High Court’s decision; reduced charge and shorter jail terms remain for Kong Hee and team.
The five-judge panel at the Court of Appeal today announced that it agreed with the High Court’s decision to charge the six in City Harvest Church case for basic criminal breach of trust (CBT) under Section 406 of the Penal Code instead of Section 409.
This means that the reduced jail terms remain for all six.
In reading out the verdict, High Court judge Andrew Phang noted that at the heart of the appeal was a “discrete point of law” centering on the interpretation of the Penal Code Section 409 charge.
In the District Courts’ original verdict, the six were convicted of CBT as “agents” under Section 409 of the Penal Code. Section 409 pertains to “criminal breach of trust by public servant, or by banker, merchant, or agent.”
The six appealed, and the original verdict was overturned by the High Court on April 7, 2017, which ruled by a majority that Section 409 applies only to “professional agents” and the six church leaders, being key leaders and directors on the church board, could not be considered to have acted as “professional agents.”
On August 1, 2017, the Prosecution filed a Criminal Reference with the Court of Appeal, which was heard by a five-judge panel comprising Judges of Appeal Andrew Phang and Judith Prakash, and Justices Belinda Ang, Quentin Loh and Chua Lee Ming.
In reading out its judgment this morning, the Court of Appeal stood by the High Court’s decision, while calling this an “exceptional case” that has raised issues as to where the line should be drawn between judicial interpretation and legislative action.
The four who appeared in the docks looked healthy, albeit appearing to have lost some weight. Tan Ye Peng’s lawyer, senior counsel N Sreenivasan said that his client was “relieved” at the verdict and that he had spent a lot of time praying and reflecting while in prison.
Chew Eng Han has deferred his sentence of three years and four months, which will begin on February 22. Sharon Tan has completed her term.
“I’m really glad and thankful for the verdict today. Sharon can now move on with her life, and as for the others, we are now certain that we will see them soon!” Grace Tan, 29, an educator and a cell group leader in the church.
Adds Isaiah Kuan, 44, a zone secretary from the church, “I feel emotional. There’s finally closure for me and for the church.”
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