Yan Jun v Attorney-General

CourtCourt of Appeal (Singapore)
JudgeAndrew Phang Boon Leong JA
Judgment Date27 November 2014
Neutral Citation[2014] SGCA 60
Citation[2014] SGCA 60
Defendant CounselKhoo Boo Jin, Low Tzeh Shyian Russell and Poh Jia Yin Nicole Evangeline (Attorney-General's Chambers)
Published date02 December 2014
Plaintiff CounselThe appellant in person
Hearing Date09 May 2014
Docket NumberCivil Appeal No 142 of 2013
Date27 November 2014
Subject MatterLimitation,Constitutional Law,Defamation,Malicious Prosecution,Accused Person,Publication,Qualified Privilege,Tort,Civil Procedure,Striking Out,Rights
Andrew Phang Boon Leong JA (delivering the judgment of the court): Introduction

This is an appeal by the appellant, Yan Jun (“the Appellant”), against the decision of the High Court judge (“the Judge”) in Registrar’s Appeal No 227 of 2013 (“RA 227/2013”). The Judge dismissed the Appellant’s appeal against the decision of an assistant registrar (“the AR”) in Summons No 2310 of 2013 (“SUM 2310/2013”) to strike out parts of his statement of claim in Suit No 257 of 2013 (“S 257/2013”) under O 18 r 19 of the Rules of Court (Cap 322, R 5, 2006 Rev Ed) (“the Rules”).

The background facts

The facts pleaded by the Appellant are as follows. On the morning of 19 July 2009, the Appellant was in his flat in Simei when he had an argument with his mother-in-law, Mdm Yu Xinlan (“Mdm Yu”). Given previous instances of violence between himself and Mdm Yu, the Appellant called the police. He then carried his child into the master bedroom of the flat and waited for the police to arrive.

During the time he was in the bedroom, the Appellant heard Mdm Yu shouting to his wife, Mdm Liu Tian (“Mdm Liu”), that certain stove accessories had been removed from the kitchen. Upon hearing this, Mdm Liu rushed into the bedroom and hit the Appellant repeatedly and violently. The Appellant held his child tightly and raised his arm to protect himself, but did not fight back. He then ran out of the bedroom with the child and stood in the dining room while Mdm Liu remained in the bedroom.

Shortly after this, two police officers arrived at the flat. The Appellant pointed to the master bedroom and stated in Mandarin, “she beat me”, but he was ignored by the police officers. Instead, they went directly into the bedroom to speak to Mdm Liu. After some time, they came out of the master bedroom and continued their conversation with Mdm Liu in the kitchen.

The Appellant overheard Mdm Liu informing the police officers that the Appellant had hit her deliberately because he knew that an Expedited Order (“the EO”), which Mdm Liu had obtained against him on 25 June 2009, was about to expire. The Appellant also overheard one of the police officers talking to someone on the phone about whether the EO was valid on that day.

After Mdm Liu had spoken to the police officers, the Appellant told one of the police officers that it was his turn to speak but was told that he was under arrest for breach of the EO. The Appellant protested on the ground that the police officers had only heard one side of the story but this was to no avail. The Appellant was handcuffed and later escorted to Changi General Hospital (“CGH”) for a medical examination.

In the treatment room at CGH, the Appellant was asked by a doctor about how he had gotten injured, to which the Appellant replied that he was beaten by his wife. The doctor then asked about the Appellant’s wrongdoing to which one of the police officers answered “breach of PPO [personal protection order]”. The Appellant alleges that the doctor deliberately insulted him by replying “small injury” in a loud voice. The Appellant’s medical report stated that he had superficial nail excoriations on his face, neck and left hand.

Mdm Liu also proceeded to CGH for a medical examination. Her medical report stated that she had superficial abrasions and tenderness on the left side of her neck.

After his medical examination, the Appellant was taken to Bedok Police Division (“BPD”) for further investigations. In the course of these investigations, the Appellant informed the Investigating Officer (“the IO”) that he had gone to the Family Court on 6 July 2009, which was the return date of the EO, but that Mdm Liu had not attended court on that day. The Appellant was released on bail from BPD the next day, 20 July 2009, at about 6.30am. Approximately 21 hours had elapsed from the time of the Appellant’s arrest to his release.

After the Appellant was released, he went again to the Family Court to check whether his wife had attended court on the return date of the EO, and was informed that she had not. This suggested that the EO was not valid when the Appellant was arrested on 19 July 2009. Therefore, on the next day, the Appellant sent an SMS to the IO about Mdm Liu’s non-attendance in court. He also later wrote to BPD for an explanation and was told that the case had been passed on to one Staff Sergeant Lim Shao Liang (“SSG Lim”). On 14 September 2009, SSG Lim informed the Appellant that his case had been referred to the Attorney-General’s Chambers (“AGC”). Around this time, the Appellant consulted a number of lawyers.

On 5 October 2009, SSG Lim informed the Appellant that, having consulted with the AGC, it had been decided that no further action was to be taken against him. On 16 and 29 October 2009 the Appellant sent emails to SSG Lim to question the validity of the EO and to inquire about the outcome of the investigations. However, he did not receive a reply.

Thereafter, the Appellant again consulted with lawyers but took no further steps until 16 March 2012. On that day, he sent an email to the AGC to ask about the outcome of the investigations. The AGC replied on 4 and 5 June 2012, taking the position that, in the circumstances of the case, there was a reasonable suspicion of the Appellant being concerned with an offence of a breach of the EO, even though it was subsequently discovered that the EO had been revoked by 19 July 2009. A series of emails between the Appellant and the AGC then followed before the Appellant filed S 257/2013 against the Attorney-General (“the Respondent”) on 1 April 2013.

The Appellant’s claim

In S 257/2013, the Appellant claims damages against the Respondent for wrongful arrest, false imprisonment, assault and battery, excessive use of force, malicious prosecution, abuse of process and defamation. These causes of action arise generally from the circumstances surrounding the Appellant’s arrest on 19 July 2009, and his subsequent detention before he was released.

The cause of action in defamation, on the other hand, is based on the statements allegedly made by the doctor and the police officer at CGH during the Appellant’s medical examination (see above at [7]). The Appellant states that he was defamed by the police officer when the police officer had answered “breach of PPO” when asked by the doctor about the Appellant’s wrongdoing. The Appellant also states that the doctor had intentionally humiliated, and therefore defamed, him by loudly announcing that the Appellant had suffered a “small injury”.

The Appellant claims the following as damages:

Claim Amount Type of Damages
Loss of Liberty $60,000 General
$30,000 Aggravated
Assault and Battery $15,000 General
Assault and Battery (Humiliation) $100,000 General
Excessive Use of Force $10,000 General
Defamation $5,000 General
Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress $100,000 General
Economic Loss $7,135 Non-pecuniary
Malicious Prosecution, Abuse of Process, Wrongful Arrest $900,000 Punitive (recommended)
Total $1,227,135
The claim for “economic loss” comprises the following items:
Item Amount Dates
Medical Treatment for Thumb Numbness $75 25 July 2009
Consultation with Family Service Centre $60 11, 27 August and 4 September 2009
Return to hometown in September 2009 $3,000 September 2009
Lost Earnings $4,000 July-September 2009
Total $7,135
The proceedings below

On 2 May 2013, the Respondent applied to strike out the Appellant’s statement of claim on the ground that the entire suit was time-barred. In the alternative, the Respondent submitted that the statement of claim did not disclose reasonable causes of action. On 3 July 2013, the AR struck out all the Appellant’s claims except the claim for general and aggravated damages for loss of liberty arising from false imprisonment and the claim for punitive damages for false imprisonment. On 16 July 2013, the Appellant filed an appeal against the AR’s decision in RA 227/2013.

The appeal was heard, and dismissed, by the Judge on 21 August 2013, with written grounds reported in Yan Jun v Attorney-General [2014] 1 SLR 793 (“the GD”). The Judge held (at [46]) that the Appellant’s entire suit was time-barred under ss 24A(1) and (2) of the Limitation Act (Cap 163, 1996 Rev Ed) (“the Act”). Despite this, the Judge appeared to be of the view that the AR’s decision not to strike out the Appellant’s false imprisonment claim should stand (at [54]). The Judge proceeded, by way of obiter dicta, to hold that there were other grounds for striking out the Appellant’s causes of action in wrongful arrest, malicious prosecution, abuse of process and defamation.

Issues before this court

The two broad issues before this court are as follows: Whether the Appellant’s suit is time-barred under s 24A of the Act (“Issue 1”). Whether there are other grounds for striking out the Appellant’s statement of claim (“Issue 2”).

Issue 1 The relevant statutory provisions

Turning first to the issue of whether the Appellant’s suit is time-barred, the statutory provisions which are germane to the present appeal are ss 6 and 24A of the Act. Section 6 of the Act (“s 6”) prescribes a general limitation period of six years for actions based on contract or tort. It reads as follows:

Limitation of actions of contract and tort and certain other actions 6.—(1) Subject to this Act, the following actions shall not be brought after the expiration of 6 years from the date on which the cause of action accrued:

(a) actions founded on a contract or on tort;

[emphasis added]

It should be noted that the six year limitation period under s 6 is subject to provision(s) to the contrary in the Act. In the context of the present appeal, an...

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