Singapore

Woman dying of cancer fined instead of jailed in rare 'judicial mercy'

The apex court made a rare ruling to grant judicial mercy to a woman with terminal cancer when it converted her jail term of one week for contempt of court to a $5,000 fine.

The mother of two took her case to the Court of Appeal after she was found guilty of breaching court orders to not involve her children in an "extremely ugly" divorce case.

The woman has stage 4 breast cancer, is wheelchair-bound and weighs only 30kg. She was found by prison medical staff to be unfit for jail time given the severity of her illness.

Judge of Appeal Andrew Phang, who delivered the grounds of decision earlier this month, said: "The exercise of judicial mercy, while not unprecedented, has only been done in exceptional circumstances.

"For the court to exercise mercy, there must be exceptional circumstances from which humanitarian considerations arise, outweighing the public interests in having the offender punished for what he had done wrong against the law."

Justice Phang said the case was an extremely ugly one where the mother waged an all-out war against her former husband, despite being diagnosed with breast cancer after she started divorce proceedings.

He cited an earlier judgment of Family Justice Courts Presiding Judge Debbie Ong, who noted that the children used to have a loving relationship with their father. But the mother had "relentlessly polarised them against their father to such an extent that any repair of the relationship was not practically feasible".

The couple, who are in their late 40s and early 50s, have two children - a daughter, 15, and a son, nine.

COLLEAGUE MOVED IN

The woman's male colleague, whom her former husband accused of being her lover, moved in with the woman and her children, purportedly to help her with cancer treatment.

Justice Ong found that the woman had actively allowed her colleague to manipulate the children against their father.

The father took his former wife to task for contempt of court for breaching court orders. These included getting both parents to not make disparaging remarks about each other to the children, and not involve the children in the divorce litigation, such as showing or discussing with them any court documents or correspondences related to the case.

Yet their daughter had posted a series of allegations on social media which were "already proven to have been unfounded", Justice Phang said.

In her posts, the girl named her father and accused him of being a "mega pervert" who had affairs and sexually groomed his children.

Justice Ong found that the woman had intentionally breached court orders not to disclose to the children information relating to the case in court.

The woman appealed against the decision.

In his grounds of decision, Judge Phang said: "Having considered the facts and the evidence as a whole, we found that the appellant had deliberately acted in order to prejudice and harm the husband's reputation, as well as to drive a wedge in the relationship between him and the children."

Besides the $5,000 fine, the Court of Appeal also ordered the woman to pay her former husband $21,000 for the cost of the appeal.

COURT & CRIME