An urgent pre-trial conference on Daniel Augustin De Costa’s criminal defamation case will be held on Fri morning (3 Jan) at 11.30am in Court 15A of the State Courts, with M Ravi acting as defence counsel.
Carson Law Chambers on its Facebook page today said that the pre-trial conference will be held as a result of the Prosecution’s alleged refusal “to disclose the accused’s statements made to the police”.
M Ravi, a lawyer from Carson Law Chambers representing Mr De Costa in the immediate case, is seeking to rely on the above in the upcoming hearing, scheduled to take place on 20 Jan at 9.30am in open court at Court 15A, according to the law firm.
Mr Ravi will do so “in support of his client’s challenge to the constitutionality of the criminal charges”, as the criminal charges “arguably violate the right to equality provision (Article 12)”, particularly “owing to the non- prosecution of PM Lee’s siblings by the Attorney General for allegedly making similar if not more serious allegations against the PM and members of the cabinet”, added Carson Law Chambers.
“The police statements (called the long statements) made by the accused are usually given to Defence lawyers under the Criminal Case Disclosure Conference (CCDC) for District Court cases.
“Unlike the District Court cases, the prosecution retains its discretion for Magistrates Court cases,” according to Carson Law Chambers.
Carson Law Chambers added that M Ravi had earlier applied to the court under section 171 of the Criminal Procedure Code for the court to convene an urgent pre-trial conference.
The pre-trial conference, added the firm, aims at directing the prosecution to disclose Mr De Costa’s police statements to enable the accused’s statements to be addressed in court “with regards to the allegations made by the Lee Siblings in the statements with reference to the criminal charge”.
M Ravi last month filed an application on behalf of Mr De Costa to have his client’s criminal defamation case stated in the High Court for the purpose of raising the question as to whether the prosecution of De Costa contravenes the equality provision of Article 12 of the Constitution.
Mr De Costa was charged on 13 Dec 2018 under Section 500 of the Penal Code (Cap 224, Rev. Ed. 2008) for criminal defamation, the following of which is the full charge:
‘… that you on 4th September 2018, at about 7:24pm, at an Internet café located in Chinatown, Singapore had defamed members of the Cabinet of Singapore by making an imputation concerning members of the Cabinet of Singapore by words intended to be read, to wit, by sending an email titled ‘PAP MP apologises to SP’ from [email protected] to [email protected] which you had written and which stated that there was ‘corruption at the highest echelons’ intending that the contents of the said email would be published on the website www.theonlinecitizen.com, knowing that such imputation would harm the reputation of members of the Cabinet of Singapore […]”
Published on 4 Sep 2018, the article, submitted by De Costa under the pseudonym Willy Sum, alleged that “we have seen multiple policy and foreign screw-ups, tampering of the Constitution, corruption at the highest echelons and apparent lack of respect from foreign powers ever since the demise of founding father Lee Kuan Yew”.
Mr Ravi in his application, pointed out that other publications, such as the Joint Statement of Dr Lee Wei Ling and Mr Lee Hsien Yang – siblings of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong – made similar or worse imputations that were directed squarely at the Prime Minister, a member of the Cabinet.
The application highlights a segment of the Joint Statement by Dr Lee Wei Ling and Mr Lee Hsien Yang where they wrote, “Lee Hsien Loong misused his powers as Prime Minister, and that he hijacked the organs of state to pursue his own personal desires” against De Costa’s offending words, “corruption at the highest echelons”.
The offending article was taken down under the orders of Infocomms and Media Development Authority (IMDA) on 18 Sep 2018. IMDA then reported the article to the Singapore Police Force the following month on 8 Oct 2018.
On 20 Nov 2018, the police seized electronic devices from Terry Xu, TOC‘s editor-in-chief, and Mr De Costa’s respective residences under court orders.
Mr Xu was subjected to an eight-hour interview with the police on the day itself, while De Costa was interviewed at a later date.
Under Section 500 of the Penal Code, those found guilty of criminal defamation may be subject to maximum sentence of two years’ imprisonment or a fine or both.
Carson Law Chambers in its statement today noted that the application that will be heard in the pre-trial conference tomorrow “engages the question of the right to fair trial and due process for accused persons facing Magistrates’ Arrest Courts (MAC) which we believe represent majority of criminal cases in Singapore”.
The law firm added that it will be posting further updates following tomorrow’s pre-trial conference.