Some City Harvest Church leaders disappointed despite reduced jail terms
All six City Harvest Church (CHC) leaders will now spend less time behind bars because of a reduced criminal breach of trust (CBT) charge, but some are disappointed their convictions were not overturned.
CHC founder Kong Hee, 52, who was stoic when the verdict was read, now faces 3½ years in jail - down from the initial eight years - for three counts of CBT.
As the others' spiritual leader, he was found to be the most culpable. His lawyer, Mr Edwin Tong, said Kong is still disappointed and mulling over the judgment.
"He wants to read it and then he will decide what happens. But he has expressed that he appreciates the judges have said that ultimately they (the CHC six) were acting in the interest of the church, something he always believed in," Mr Tong told reporters.
Former church investment committee member Chew Eng Han, 56, who faces three years and four months in jail, is disappointed and said there is a "pretty high" chance of him seeking further legal recourse.
"My case is that when monies are applied for church's benefit, even though it's an unauthorised purpose... That does not constitute misappropriation," he said.
Perhaps the most relieved is former finance manager Sharon Tan, 41, who was seen tearing after the hearing. Her 21-month jail term for CBT and account falsification charges was reduced to seven months, after the Court of Appeal found her to be the least culpable.
Though she is disappointed not to be acquitted, she acknowledged that her sentence had been reduced, said her lawyer, Mr Paul Seah.
"We are pleased with the reduction. The court has recognised the limited role Sharon played in this," he said.
Former finance manager Serina Wee, 40, has mixed feelings about her 2½-year jail term, reduced from five years, for six counts of CBT and four of falsification of accounts.
Her husband, Mr Kenny Low, told reporters: "(The jail term) is just a number. It is still time lost and the opportunity to be with your loved ones (has been) taken away. I don't know what to say at this moment. I just want to talk to my wife."
Former deputy senior pastor Tan Ye Peng, 44, whose 5½-year term was reduced to three years and two months, said: "The trial has been very long, so I would like to serve the sentence and move on."
Former finance committee member John Lam, 49, had his jail term reduced from three years to 1½ years.
All six requested for their jail terms to be deferred, with Sharon Tan asking for two months. The rest asked for two weeks.
The prosecution, whose appeal for longer sentences was dismissed, will study the written grounds before deciding on the appropriate course of action, an Attorney-General's Chambers spokesman said.
There is still a last avenue of appeal in which either party can file a criminal reference, which requires a rigorous process, said criminal lawyer Rajan Supramaniam, who is not involved in the case.
For the application to proceed, the questions of law raised must be in the public interest, or it will be tantamount to abuse of court process, he said.