Apex court raps lawyer for bringing 'misconceived' application

SINGAPORE – The Court of Appeal has rapped a lawyer for bringing a “misconceived” application that the apex court had no jurisdiction to hear.

In a judgment on Friday (July 9), the court said it “beggars belief” that Mr Wong Siew Hong, an experienced criminal law counsel, would proceed to file the application.

The three-judge court said it was minded to order costs against Mr Wong for the application, which amounted to an abuse of process and was in substance a “backdoor appeal”.

The court noted that Mr Wong proceeded with the “unmeritorious” application after being alerted about the court’s lack of jurisdiction and was given the chance to reconsider his position.

The court directed the lawyer to tender submissions on why costs should not be imposed personally on him, and the quantum of costs if such an order was made.

Mr Wong was representing one of two people accused of various sexual offences against a girl, who was about 11 years old when the alleged crimes were first committed.

His client faces 15 charges, including nine for sexual assault by penetration, while the other accused faces 13 charges.

Before the trial even started both accused applied to the High Court, seeking for the prosecution to disclose witness statements of the complainant and her boyfriend.

The High Court judge rejected their applications.

Mr Wong’s client then applied for permission to refer a question of law of public interest to the Court of Appeal, in a procedure known as a criminal reference.

He wanted the apex court to determine whether the prosecution should disclose to the defence the statements of prosecution witnesses.

In dismissing the application, the Court of Appeal said a criminal reference can be brought only where the General Division of the High Court has considered a decision from a lower court.

“In the present case, there has been no determination whatsoever by the General Division of the High Court in the exercise of either its appellate or revisionary jurisdiction,” said Justice Andrew Phang who wrote the judgment.

The court said the decision in the current application case was an interlocutory order made in the exercise of the High Court’s original jurisdiction.

“It is clear law that such an order generally cannot be appealed,” said the court.

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