AGC issues statement on reduced sentences of former City Harvest Church leaders

Attorney’s General Chamber (AGC) has responded to queries regarding the reduced sentences of former City Harvest Church (CHC) leaders.

Last Friday (7 April), the High Court reduced the sentences of all six former CHC leaders in favour of their appeal.

The Founder of CHC and Senior Pastor Kong Hee had his prison sentence reduced to three years and six months from eight years.

As for the others that were charged, former Fund Manager Chew Eng Han had his six-year sentence reduced to three years and four months, Deputy Pastor Tan Ye Peng’s sentence was lowered from five-and-a-half-year sentence to three years and two months, former Finance Manager Serina Wee Gek Yin’s sentence got reduced from a five-year sentence to two years and six months, former Finance Committee Member John Lam Leng Hung got a reduced sentence from three years to one year and six months, and former Finance Manager Sharon Tan Shao Yuen got her sentence lowered from a 21-month jail term to seven months.

The court also approved the deferment requests made by the former leaders.

AGC stated that in a split decision by a three-member bench of the High Court, the charges under section 409 of the Penal Code (Criminal Breach of Trust as an Agent) on which Pastor Kong Hee and five other appellants in Lam Leng Hung & Ors v PP had been convicted were reduced to charges under section 406 (Criminal Breach of Trust simpliciter) on 7 April 2017.

AGC said that the full written grounds (including the dissenting judgment) of the High Court’s decision were released on 7 April 2017.

The majority of the High Court ruled that being a director of a company or a society does not render a person to be in the business of an agent within the meaning of section 409 of the Penal Code. In doing so, the majority disagreed with another High Court decision in Tay Choo Wah v PP issued in 1976. As a result of the reduction of the section 409 charges to section 406 charges, the High Court reduced the global sentences of the appellants from imprisonment terms ranging from eight years to 21 months.

As a result of the reduction of the section 409 charges to section 406 charges, AGC pointed to the fact that the High Court reduced the global sentences of the appellants from imprisonment terms ranging from eight years to 21 months, to terms ranging from three years six months to seven months.

AGC then noted that having carefully considered the written grounds, the Prosecution is of the view that there are questions of law of public interest that have arisen out of the High Court’s decision, including and in particular, whether a director or a member of the governing body of a company or organisation who is entrusted with property, or with any dominion over property, is so entrusted in the way of his business as an agent for the purposes of section 409 of the Penal Code.

According to AGC, the Prosecution has accordingly filed a Criminal Reference on Monday (10 April), to refer these questions of law to the Court of Appeal.

Under section 397(5) of the Criminal Procedure Code, the Court of Appeal, in hearing and determining any questions referred to it, may make such orders as the High Court might have made as the Court of Appeal considers just for the disposal of the case.

If the Court of Appeal answers the questions referred in accordance with the Prosecution’s submissions, the Prosecution intends to request that the Court of Appeal exercises its powers under section 397(5) to reinstate the appellants’ original convictions under section 409 of the Penal Code and make necessary and consequential orders in relation to the sentences given.