It seems the AGC is still as dimwitted as ever, when it comes to dealing with criticism of the judiciary.
Instead of publicising grounds of written judgement against the Chinese national who carjacked a taxi at Changi Airport, the AGC prefers to issue strongly-worded letters to various websites warning them of their illegal contempt of court and threatening action within two days if they do not apologise.
How pathetic! How backward! How ineffectual!
The AGC says “online comments and postings had accused the court of bias in favour of the China national.
“These comments include allegations that the courts did not wish to offend [China], that Singaporeans would get heavier sentences in comparison, that the judge lacked integrity, and that leniency was shown,” the spokesman said.
“These and similar comments pose a real risk that public confidence in the administration of justice would be undermined.”
REAL RISK? The fact is that there are quite a number of people who believe the above already shows that they lack confidence in the administration of justice. These guys who dare to speak about it openly are just the tip of the iceberg.
Ironically, it is AGC’s continual action in silencing such discussions with threats of prosecution—instead of openly addressing such criticisms and debunking them—that causes the public to lose confidence in the administration of justice.
After all, if you believe the judiciary is fair, it should be easy for you to justify their judgements in an open manner, without resorting to threats.
I believe that the allegations posted are nonsensical. For example, there is no merit in the argument that we do not wish to offend China. Are you kidding? China loves draconian laws, just like us. They want criminals to be punished severely, so they can justify their own laws at home. They hate it when Western countries impose lenient sentences on offenders, because it shows how draconian they are. In fact, I think the argument is completely backward—if we want to offend China, we should impose lighter punishments, not heavier sentences.
I believe the AGC would have done much better by simply publicising the grounds of judgement, highlighting sentences of similar cases and showing factually that the sentence imposed in this case is comparable to precedents.
The Law Minister recently went to great lengths to show that the charge preferred against a plastic surgeon (whose name sounds like a pancake) was totally above board. It stood up to cross-examination in Parliament, and I believe most now accept that there was no favouritism shown in that case.
That’s what I think AGC should do in this case as well.
Notwithstanding the above, I think the law on contempt of court needs to be revised. Freedom of speech is guaranteed under our Constitution, and that means people must be free to question the judgements of the Court without being prosecuted, even if what they say is wrong.
While it is true that the Court does not have the option of suing for libel (since it would be an interested party), one must accept this as a necessary condition of freedom of speech. Certainly no public institution—not even the judiciary—is perfect and above criticism. Further, other countries have shown that it is possible for a judiciary to become corrupt, to be biased and to be used for political purposes.
If the law of contempt criminalises all criticism of the Court and its judgements, then there exists a REAL RISK that one day, a corrupt judiciary could use this law to silence any dissent and prolong its existence.
One cannot win hearts and minds by threats. One convinces people by facts and well-reasoned arguments. Stop using the law of contempt to silence criticism. Don’t be so dimwitted. You are shooting yourself in your own foot every time you threaten critics with prosecution. You win nothing, but lose everything.