Singapore law minister K Shanmugam said on February 1, Thursday that in Parliament he will give a ministerial statement to address the government's position on the ruling by the Court of Appeal in the City Harvest Church case. He also called this issue a 'serious matter'.
The 58-year-old minister, who also takes care of Home Affairs and Law Ministry, made this announcement through Facebook and included a link to a media statement by the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC). That statement was issued soon after the Court of Appeal on Thursday declined the prosecution's approach to have six former City Harvest Church (CHC) leaders' sentences restored.
The AGC said that it will corporate with respective ministries for revising Penal Code to ensure that the company and other top positioned officials will get appropriate punishment for their wrongdoings.
According to reports, the jail term of the accused leaders that were handed to them by the High Court was unchanged, ranging from seven months to three years six months.
The AGC said that the Court of Appeal overruled a 1976 High Court decision, which stated that the directors of that company could be convicted of criminal breach of trust under section 409 of the Penal Code.
Andrew Phang, the Judge of Appeal said that the Court of Appeal has agreed with the High Court that in this case the meaning of the word 'agent', according to 409 of the Penal Code, is a professional agent who offers commercial services to a community and that was not what those six leaders were.
The statement issued by AGC says that the Court of Appeal has stated that the company directors, governing board members, key officials of charities and officers of societies, if proven guilty for committing criminal breach of trust of the company, section 406 of the Penal Code (Criminal Breach of Trust simpliciter) will decide their punishment. The convict of such a crime will receive a maximum sentence of seven years' imprisonment.
Under section 409 of the Penal Code, an agent who is convicted for committing criminal breach of trust will face a lifetime imprisonment sentence or at least 20-year jail term with fine. The Judge of Appeal noted while announcing the decision that the legislature had been amended in the UK and Malaysia explicitly for Criminal Breach of Trust by directors.
"The shaping of a remedy should be left to (Singapore's) Parliament," said JA Phang, a member of the the five-judge panel of Singapore's highest court, which also included Judge of Appeal Judith Prakash, and Justices Belinda Ang, Chua Lee Ming and Quentin Loh.