Attorney-General v Ong Wui Teck

JurisdictionSingapore
JudgeBelinda Ang Saw Ean J
Judgment Date10 June 2019
Neutral Citation[2019] SGHC 147
CourtHigh Court (Singapore)
Docket NumberOriginating Summons No 871 of 2017 (Summons No 3979 of 2017)
Published date01 April 2020
Year2019
Hearing Date28 May 2019
Plaintiff CounselKhoo Boo Jin, Elaine Liew and May Ng (Attorney-General's Chambers)
Defendant CounselThe respondent in person and absent.
Subject MatterContempt of Court,Criminal contempt,Sentencing
Citation[2019] SGHC 147
Belinda Ang Saw Ean J: Introduction

On 13 February 2019, I delivered judgment on liability, reserving sentence in [2019] SGHC 30 (“Liability Judgment”). I found Mr Ong Wui Teck (“Mr Ong”) guilty of contempt in the face of the court as well as contempt by scandalising the judiciary in the various manner detailed in the Liability Judgment. At the sentencing hearing that followed on 28 May 2019, Mr Ong was committed to prison for seven days for contempt. He was further ordered to pay legal costs including disbursements to the Attorney-General. Mr Ong has appealed against sentence and duly applied for a stay of execution vide HC/SUM 2736 of 2019. On 31 May 2019, I granted a stay of execution on terms pending the appeal.

Mr Ong did not attend the hearing on 28 May 2019. Prior to 28 May 2019, Mr Ong informed the Registry of the Supreme Court, in writing, that he would not file his submissions on sentencing and he further advised that he would not attend the hearing on 28 May 2019. His position throughout was not to avail himself of the opportunity to be heard on sentencing in the light of his pending appeal against the Liability Judgment.

Issue of sentencing

The contempt in the present case falls under the category of contempt by interference (ie, criminal contempt as explained in You Xin v Public Prosecutor and another appeal [2007] 4 SLR(R) 17 (“You Xin”) at [16] and affirmed in Shadrake Alan v Attorney-General [2011] 3 SLR 778 (“Shadrake (CA)”) at [19] and again recently in Tay Kar Oon v Tahir [2017] 2 SLR 342 at [34]). In passing sentence, this court noted the sentencing guidelines in Shadrake (CA) at [147]. State Counsel, Mr Khoo Boon Jin (“Mr Khoo”), relied on three factors listed in Shadrake (CA) that are relevant to the issue of sentencing in this case. They are: (a) the nature and gravity of the contempt; (b) the seriousness of the occasion on which the contempt was committed and the number of contemptuous statements made; and (c) the type and extent of dissemination of the contemptuous statements, and the importance of deterring would-be contemnors from following suit.

For expediency, as the facts overlap, the three factors identified by Mr Khoo are considered holistically below.

Gravity of contempt

At the heart of the committal proceedings and as noted in the Liability Judgment, a striking feature of Mr Ong’s recusal application was his improper motive to judge-shop (Mr Khoo uses the phrase “forum-shop”) and, to achieve his objective, he made use of a recusal application to have Justice Woo Bih Li step aside as the Judge assigned to hear the various applications involving his mother’s estate (ie, Originating Summons No 11 of 2016 (“OS 11”), District Court Appeal No 21 of 2015 (“DCA 21”), Originating Summons No 365 of 2014 and Originating Summons No 763 of 2014, collectively referred to as “Mother’s Estate Actions”). Mr Khoo said in his submissions for sentencing that Mr Ong’s two affidavits supposedly contained affirmation of the truth of his statements but they were simply allegations known to Mr Ong to be false. Put simply, he deliberately deposed to untruthful evidence in his two affidavits motivated by improper objectives. Plainly, he knew exactly what he was doing to cause a change of a single-judge coram and to get OS 11 and DCA 21 fixed on different hearing dates.1

The Liability Judgment found that the two affidavits portrayed false and misleading versions of events so grave as to constitute contempt being contempt in the face of the court and contempt by scandalising the judiciary. Specifically, the serious allegations in Mr Ong’s two affidavits that formed the basis of his recusal application (OS 165 of 2016) were found to be entirely groundless, contrived, dishonest and contemptuous. The Liability Judgment found that the recusal application was reflective of Mr Ong’s motive and ulterior purpose: Mr Ong had obviously engaged in a vigorous form of judge-shopping. The telling signs of judge-shopping were evident from the untruthful evidence and contemptuous statements in his affidavits, and the contempt was aggravated in his submissions made in the contempt proceedings. To repeat, his acts and lies were calculated to achieve the desired result of judge-shopping. Mr Ong pursued his objective with persistence, and it matters not that he committed contempt in the process. In this context, there is culpable conduct. Mr Ong’s contempt is very serious.

Woo J’s decision in the father’s estate, in the main involving valuable assets, was favourable to Mr Ong (ie, the 2012 Judgment). On other aspects of the father’s estate and subsequent applications where Woo J had ruled against Mr Ong, the allegations against Woo J were untrue and contemptuous. Parties were notified that Woo J was assigned to hear the Mother’s Estate Actions in January 2016, about four years after Woo J’s 2012 Judgment. The dispute in both estates are different but Mr Ong persisted in his unfounded belief that Woo J would rule against Mr Ong in the Mother’s Estate Actions in order to cover up Woo J’s wrong rulings in the father’s estate. Besides attacks against Woo J that constituted contempt in the face of the court, the Liability Judgment found Mr Ong’s criticisms of the system of administration of justice and attacks against the court as a whole to constitute scandalising contempt. Both forms of contempt involve wrongful interference with the administration of justice.

Appropriate punishment and sentence

Having considered the seriousness of this case, I agreed with Mr Khoo that a...

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1 cases
  • Ong Wui Teck v Attorney-General
    • Singapore
    • Court of Appeal (Singapore)
    • 24 March 2020
    ...Judgment”). The Judge sentenced the appellant to seven days’ imprisonment for the reasons found in Attorney-General v Ong Wui Teck [2019] SGHC 147 (“the Sentencing GD”). The present appeals were lodged by the appellant against liability and sentence. It should be noted that in all proceedin......

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