District judge found to have plagiarised Prosecution’s submissions in written judgment for drug consumption trial

A district judge was found to have substantially plagiarised a huge portion of the Prosecution’s closing submissions, in his written grounds of decision ruling against an accused person in a drug consumption trial, to the extent that even a typographical error in the former was also found in the latter.

High Court Justice Aedit Abdullah, who heard the appeal by 57-year-old Chinese medium Lim Chee Huat against his conviction and sentence for consuming methamphetamine, made this finding in his written judgment delivered on Friday (24 May).

Lim’s lawyer had only discovered the issue of potential plagiarism by the district judge while preparing written submissions for the appeal, and raised it as one of the grounds for Lim’s appeal.

Justice Abdullah considered the role of a court judgment, and analysed various cases dealing with judicial copying from Canada, the United States, Hong Kong and England.

He then set down guidelines as to the approach to be taken by the Singapore courts against judicial copying in any written judgment.

Finding that there was indeed substantial copying of the Prosecution’s submissions, Justice Abdullah questioned as to whether the Defence’s arguments had even been considered or weighed by the district judge.

The High Court judge found the district judge’s written grounds of decision to be absent, and not merely insufficient, of any judgment; it therefore could not be relied on to support Lim’s conviction.

Even though he did not need to rule on why the District Judge had plagiarised, Justice Abdullah went on to make some observations on the possible reasons of him doing so.

“Pressures of work are not a sufficient reason. While judging is certainly not the sinecure that some may think it is, all jobs these days are stressful and demanding,” wrote Justice Abdullah in his judgment.

Nevertheless, there was sufficient grounds for the High Court to consider the matter directly on appeal and make a ruling on Lim’s conviction.

In this regard, Justice Abdullah found that Lim had not rebutted the presumption of urine test, i.e. that since methamphetamine was found in Lim’s urine, he was presumed to have consumed it.

He also disbelieved Lim’s defence that the presence of methaphetamine was the result of him having taken traditional Chinese medication bought from a peddler in Hougang, having found Lim’s evidence at trial to be riddled with inconsistencies.

The 11-month jail term imposed on Lim was also in line with precedents, and Justice Abdullah decided that there was no reason to interfere with it.

Before the appeal was heard in March this year, Lim’s lawyer, Mr Zero Nalpon, had earlier made a complaint to Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon against the district judge in relation to the plagiarism.

High Court Judgment in Lim Chee Huat v Public Prosecutor (HC/MA 9269/2018)