65-year-old Ong Wui Teck’s conviction for contempt of court was the first in Singapore where the scandalising allegations against a member of the Judiciary was made in court documents, i.e. affidavits.
He appealed against his conviction and his seven-day jail term on Wednesday (19th February) afternoon before the Court of Appeal, comprising Judge of Appeal Judith Prakash, Judge of Appeal Steven Chong and Justice Quentin Loh.
Mr Ong, in a bid to have Justice Woo Bih Li recused from hearing all actions related to his mother’s estate, made various allegations against him in affidavits in 2016, which were filed in support of the recusal application.
Justice Woo decided to recuse himself as he was contemplating making a complaint against Mr Ong to the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) for contempt of court.
When the AGC informed Mr Ong that his allegations were in contempt, he refused to withdraw them and apologise. This led to the Attorney-General applying to the High Court for an order of committal against Mr Ong.
In February last year, Justice Belinda Ang found Mr Ong guilty of contempt of court (both of scandalising contempt and contempt in the face of the court), finding that the allegations were not made in good faith and posed a real risk of undermining public confidence in the administration of justice. The seven-day jail term was then passed on Mr Ong in May last year.
Common law was applied in Mr Ong’s case as the allegations were made before the commencement date of the Administration of Justice (Protection) Act (Act 19 of 2016) in October 2017.
At the appeal hearing, Mr Ong, who represented himself in person, maintained the defence of justification in respect of most of the allegations. He insisted that he has the right to take out any applications to enforce his rights.
Mr Ong also raised the argument that Justice Woo should not have recused himself if the allegations made were not true, such that he would have a right to appeal on this point to the Court of Appeal, whose ruling he would respect regardless of the outcome.
The hearing was concluded within less than an hour, where Justice Prakash announced the court’s intention to reserve judgment.