Lee Wee Jean v Low Chee Chin

CourtDistrict Court (Singapore)
JudgeShobha G. Nair
Judgment Date18 March 2002
Neutral Citation[2002] SGDC 48
Citation[2002] SGDC 48
Publication Date19 September 2003

Judgment

GROUNDS OF DECISION

Exactly one year prior to the hearing of this matter, Ms Lee Wee Jean ("the Complainant") had come to the Family Court to apply for a Personal Protection Order ("PPO") for herself and her young daughter R ("R") against Mr Low Chee Chin ("the Respondent"). The Respondent was, at that time, the Complainant’s husband and he is the father of R. Based on her complaint, an Expedited Order was issued in their favour

2. At the conclusion of the hearing, the Court granted a PPO in favour of the Complainant and dismissed the application for a PPO for R . The Complainant being dissatisfied with my decision to dismiss the application for a PPO for the child, appeals against the same. My decision not to award costs in this case is also the subject of appeal. I shall now state the reasons for my decisions.

3. I would like to state at the outset that although the appeal is against my decision not to grant a PPO for the child, it would be prudent to lay out the evidence pertaining to the Complainant’s application for a PPO for herself. The applications are materially linked and an understanding of this case requires an appreciation of all the evidence.

Aspects that were not in dispute

4. The aspects of this case that were not in dispute are as follows:

a. R was 3 years old when the Complainant applied for protection for herself and for the child against the Respondent. This was on 5th December 2000. An Expedited Order was granted in their favour. The granting of the order was based purely on the allegations of the Complainant as contained in her complaint form and which was affirmed before a Magistrate on 5th December 2000.

b. The Complainant also requested, through the Family Court, for police assistance to escort her to the matrimonial home in order to remove her belongings and leave the said home. The next day, 6th December 2000, police officers escorted the Complainant to her home. The Complainant’s uncle (Mr Teh Lian Hooi), his wife and the Complainant’s sister-in-law (Ms Koh Lee Kiow) were also with her while she packed her (and her daughter’s) clothes. The Respondent arrived at the home when this was happening.

c. The Complainant left the matrimonial home on 6th December 2000 with R and their maid for Ms Koh Lee Kiow’s home. That night, one Mr Dennis Leong (with whom the Complainant had had an extramarital affair with), his wife, one Mdm Giam Cheng Han (who is a practising lawyer in Singapore) and the Respondent, arrived at Ms Koh’s flat. I highlight the fact of the Complainant’s extramarital affair and the profession of Mr Leong’s wife only because these are of relevance to this matter. There was dispute as to the Respondent’s intention in going over to Ms. Kiow’s flat with Mr Leong and Mdm. Giam. What is not in dispute is that Mr Leong and Mdm Giam had told the police officers who were called to the scene, that they were trying to persuade the Complainant to allow the Respondent to see his daughter, R.

d. It was the Complainant’s evidence that the police had asked her to allow the Respondent to see R for five minutes so that he would leave the vicinity of Ms Koh’s flat. The Complainant informed the police that this was unreasonable as it was already past midnight (7th December 2000) and that she had an Expedited Order against the Respondent (paragraph 30 of C1).

e. On the very same day, 7th December 2000, Ms Lee filed a divorce petition based on the Respondent’s unreasonable behaviour. The Respondent later cross-petitioned on the ground of adultery committed by the Complainant (the party cited was Mr Dennis Leong). The petition and cross-petition were not contested and a decree nisi was granted on 24th July 2001 dissolving the marriage on the sufficiency of the contents of both the petition and the cross-petition.

f. On 18th April 2001, prior to the decree nisi being granted, the Respondent had consented to granting interim custody, care and control of R to the Complainant. He also consented to the Complainant’s request that he see R under the Complainant’s supervision at the Family Court premises. Up till the time of the hearing before me, the Respondent had been keeping his appointments to see his daughter under these conditions set by the Complainant. During "access hours", it was the Complainant who stayed with the child. The Complainant was of the view that R would not go to anyone else.

g. The ancillary matters arising from the divorce between the Complainant and the Respondent had not been settled/heard when this matter came before me. In fact, a few months prior to the hearing of the PPO applications before me in December 2001, the Respondent had put in an application to vary the access order such that he be permitted unsupervised access. The Complainant is contesting the application. She had in her divorce petition, prayed that she be granted sole custody, care and control of R with reasonable supervised access to the Respondent.

The Complainant’s allegations of violence and the Respondent’s response

5. The Complainant’s case for a PPO rested on very specific incidents on specific dates. This is detailed in her affidavit "C1" (paragraphs 5 to 33). In addition to C1, she filed three affidavits (marked and admitted as "C2", "C3" and "C4", respectively). It is noteworthy that all the allegations of violence were said to have occurred after the Respondent’s discovery of the Complainant’s extramarital affair (with Dennis Leong) in September 2000. The Complainant said that the Respondent was verbally abusive and tortured her psychologically. Although no reference was made by the Complainant’s Counsel to the definition of the term "family violence" under section 64 of the Women’s Charter (Cap.353), for the purpose of identifying which specific act of family violence was being alleged, it would be fair to conclude that the allegations related to the commission of acts amounting to continual harassment of the Complainant with intent or knowledge of causing anguish to the Complainant and the commission of acts which placed the Complainant and R in fear of hurt (see (a) and (d) of the definition under section 64 of the Women’s Charter).

6. The Respondent filed three affidavits (marked and admitted as "R1", "R2" and "R3" respectively). Counsel for the Complainant had applied for two exhibits to be expunged from the records. These pertained to statutory declarations made by Mr Dennis Leong and exhibited in R1 (as LCC- 3) and R3 (as LCC-1 on pages 40-41). As Mr Leong was not called as a witness, Counsel for the Respondent did not object to the application and the two exhibits were expunged accordingly.

7. The Respondent told a story of how he received a call from a lady on 16th September 2000 asking him questions about the Complainant. This left him puzzled. He received another call the very next day from the same lady who informed him that she suspected that the Complainant was "having an affair" with her (the caller’s) husband.

8. The Respondent admitted to having questioned the Complainant about this over the next few days (paragraph 5 of R1) and spoke of how the Complainant gave him evasive answers. The Respondent told of how the Complainant received many calls from Mdm.Giam which made the Complainant very distressed and frightened. In fact, it was the Respondent who called for a meeting of all the parties and requested that Mdm. Giam clarify the situation with the Complainant and thereafter, not to call the Complainant again. The Complainant stated that the meeting with Mdm.Giam was not to clarify the situation but instead to interrogate her and Dennis Leong. It was the Complainant’s evidence that the Respondent remarked to Mdm. Giam at the start of the meeting that she "was dead meat" (paragraph 3 of C2).

9. The Respondent admitted that his relationship with the Complainant deteriorated upon him finding out about the extramarital affair (paragraph 6 of R1). He said he questioned the Complainant for the next few months about her affair and that this led to arguments. He claimed that these arguments did not lead to any violence or any threats of violence.

"Throughout our marriage, from 1991, we seldom (quarreled) let alone violence of any sort or threat of violence. We are both mature people and not prone to violence of any sort. Even during the traumatic period when I discovered the affair, I called the Complainant’s brother, to come to Kuala Lumpur to try to resolve the problem. If I had used violence or threatened violence, I would not have asked for the presence and help of the Complainant’s family. I even insisted that she called her mother to try to come down to Singapore from Kuantan. Her mother did come down to stay with us for a week in November 2000" (paragraph 6 of R1).

10. The Complainant insisted that the Respondent threatened and harassed her day and night in respect of the affair. He would frighten her by uttering words like "over my dead body" and claimed that these were never in response to any provocation on her part (paragraph 4-7 of C2). Insofar as having requested the Complainant’s brother’s involvement in mediating, it was the Complainant’s stand that despite efforts by her brother to get the Respondent to let go of the past, he would continue to interrogate her about the extramarital affair.

Incidents on 24th September 2000 and 26th September 2000

11. In relation to these two dates, the Complainant claimed that the Respondent had threatened to kill her, then R and finally himself before burning the house down (page 6 of C1). The Court found those statements, taken in isolation, to be alarming and was deeply concerned. She then went on, without stating the context or circumstances under which those statements were made, to say, "in addition to the above, the Defendant continuously calls me names like loose woman with no morals, stupid cow, a dog and even does so in front of my daughter."

12. The rest of the events in relation...

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