Common sense CHC sentences too low: Shanmugam
Common sense that sentences in City Harvest case were too low, he added
The Government will ask Parliament to amend the law to ensure that directors and other senior officers who commit criminal breach of trust (CBT) will face stiffer penalties.
Minister for Home Affairs and Law K. Shanmugam said this in Parliament yesterday while referring to the sentences passed in the City Harvest Church (CHC) case.
He said it was common sense they were too low and the punishment should have been more severe.
Mr Shanmugam said the changes to the law will be made with other wide-ranging amendments to the Penal Code.
His comments came after the Court of Appeal last Thursday upheld a ruling by the High Court that disallowed stiffer sentences for CHC founder Kong Hee and five other church leaders for misusing church funds.
The Minister highlighted that the Court of Appeal had acknowledged this gap in the law.
"If you are a senior officer, director in the organisation, you are in a position of greater trust, you have considerable authority to make decisions in relation to the organisation's assets.
"If you abuse that trust, you should be more culpable and you should be liable for more severe punishments compared to an ordinary employee," he added.
He also addressed the public dissatisfaction of the sentences and the online chatter about the judges.
He said that while it was fine to express unhappiness, it should not descend into abuse or contempt.
"Judges should not be personally attacked, their integrity impugned, just because people do not agree with their decision," he said.
He also revealed that the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) is looking into an edited newspaper report uploaded onto a Facebook group that claimed that a lawyer from the People's Action Party (PAP) had saved the CHC sextet from heavier sentences.
He mentioned this online falsehood in his reply to Mr Gan Thiam Poh (Ang Mo Kio GRC), who had asked about comments that the CHC case had been handled by lawyer Edwin Tong, a PAP MP (Marine Parade GRC).
Last night, the AGC released a statement saying it had written to the man who had uploaded the post on Friday.
AGC said: "AGC will take firm action against contempt of court, including institution of committal proceedings in appropriate instances."
Warning against adopting a mob mentality, Mr Shanmugam said: "This sort of attack, based on deliberate faking, is quite unacceptable.
" I cannot see how any reasonable person will justify such faking as a legitimate expression of free speech.
"I have asked the police to take a serious view of those who scandalise the court."
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