Re Tan Khee Eng John

CourtHigh Court (Singapore)
JudgeYong Pung How CJ
Judgment Date06 May 1997
Neutral Citation[1997] SGHC 115
Citation[1997] SGHC 115
Defendant CounselVictor Yeo Khee Eng (Deputy Public Prosecutor)
Plaintiff CounselRespondent in person
Published date19 September 2003
Docket NumberWarrant of Arrest No 2
Date06 May 1997
Subject MatterCompensation and costs,Advocate and solicitor failed to appear in court when directed to do so by Chief Justice,Whether such failure to appear constituted contempt of court,Contempt of court,Criminal Procedure and Sentencing

You, Mr John Tan of John Tan & Co were brought before me today following the execution this morning of a warrant of arrest issued on Friday 2 May 1997. You were asked to show cause why you should not be punished for contempt of court for your failure to attend in court at 2.15pm on Tuesday 29 April 1997.

Background facts

The background facts are as follows. You are an advocate and solicitor of more than five years standing, having been admitted in March 1992. You practise under the firm name of John Tan & Co. You were acting for the appellant in MA 249/96. The appeal having been adjourned previously, was refixed for hearing at 10am on Tuesday 29 April 1997. On the Monday just before the hearing, you faxed the staff of the Supreme Court Criminal Section a letter stating that the matter had been ` taken by Thomas Tham & Co ` [sic] and also, that the appellant had been hospitalised. You then stated in the final paragraph of your fax:

we are requested by the appellant to request for the matter to be adjourned (final) pending our handing over of the papers to her new solicitors.

Upon receiving the above fax, the staff telephoned you and asked you to attend in court on Tuesday 29 April 1997 so that you could inform the court of the appellant`s request for an adjournment, and make formal application for leave of the court to be discharged as counsel on record for the appellant.
You refused to do so. You expressed the view that your client had already discharged you and that there was consequently no need for your attendance in court.

That same afternoon, an assistant registrar of the Supreme Court also telephoned you and reiterated that you should attend in court on Tuesday 29 April 1997, since you had stated in your own letter that your client had requested you - and not Thomas Tham & Co - to apply for an adjournment.
You again refused to do so.

You were accordingly absent at the hearing of the appeal on the morning of Tuesday 29 April 1997.
Mr Thomas Tham from Thomas Tham & Co appeared instead. The appellant`s daughter also appeared. Mr Thomas Tham said that he had not received the relevant papers from you. There was no indication that you had asked him to mention on your behalf. The appellant`s daughter told the court that her mother wished to have Mr Thomas Tham act for her instead, but added that you had refused to hand over the papers relating to the appeal. She also said that you had promised the appellant that you would be in court on Tuesday morning, and that you had assured the appellant`s mother - the bailor - that there was no need for her to appear in court. In short, there appeared to me to be at least some confusion as to the question of your discharge as the appellant`s solicitor. I adjourned the appeal, therefore, and, inter alia, made an order that you present yourself in court at 2.15pm on the same day to explain your absence.

The court staff then made numerous attempts to telephone and fax you at your office.
No one answered the telephone. Nor, apparently, was your office fax machine able to receive any faxes. Finally, at about 2.10pm, the court staff managed to contact you on the telephone. You were informed of my order that you appear in court at 2.15pm. At the same time, a notice in similar terms was also successfully faxed to your office. However, you refused to come to court. According to the court staff who spoke to you, you stated that you were being given very short notice and that you did not have the requisite counsel`s robe. The staff suggested that you borrow a robe from the Bar Room and urged you to hurry over to the Supreme Court. You declined and said that you would send the court a letter of explanation instead.

You did not appear in court at

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13 cases
  • Lee Hsien Loong v Singapore Democratic Party and Others and Another Suit
    • Singapore
    • Court of Appeal (Singapore)
    • 6 November 2007
    ...and brings the court into disrepute. Similar sentiments were expressed in no uncertain terms by Yong Pung How CJ in Re Tan Khee Eng John [1997] 3 SLR 382 at There are many things which a lawyer or a litigant can do which do not necessarily hinder or delay court proceedings, but which nevert......
  • Attorney-General v Hertzberg Daniel and Others
    • Singapore
    • High Court (Singapore)
    • 25 November 2008 well as the ideas held by the courts about the principles to be adhered to in the administration of justice (Re Tan Khee Eng John [1997] 3 SLR 382 at [13]). As pointed out by Lai J in Chee Soon Juan (at [25]-[27]), conditions unique to Singapore (i.e., our small geographical size and the......
  • Attorney-General v Chee Soon Juan
    • Singapore
    • High Court (Singapore)
    • 31 March 2006
    ...on a judge’s impartiality must be “firmly dealt with” (ibid). 27 As rightly pointed out by Yong Pung How CJ in Re Tan Khee Eng John [1997] 3 SLR 382 (at The power to punish for contempt of court allows a court to deal with conduct which would adversely affect the administration of justice. ......
  • You Xin v Public Prosecutor and another appeal
    • Singapore
    • High Court (Singapore)
    • 24 July 2007
    ...Attorney-General [1968] 1 WLR 1 (folld) Ram Goswami v PP [1983-1984] SLR (R) 694; [1984-1985] SLR 478 (folld) Tan Khee Eng John, Re [1997] 1 SLR (R) 870; [1997] 3 SLR 382 (refd) Weston v Central Criminal Court Courts Administrator [1977] QB 32 (refd) Wilkinson v S [2003] 1 WLR 1254 (folld) ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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