Have confidence that judges will do the right thing: Shanmugam on Annie Ee case

Have confidence that judges will do the right thing: Shanmugam on Annie Ee case

Channel NewsAsia·2017-12-20 12:00

26-year-old Annie Ee Yu Lian was found dead in her bed on Apr 13, 2015. (Photo: Facebook/Annie Ee Yu Lian)

SINGAPORE: Singaporeans must have confidence in the court system and not put pressure on judges to impose harsh or lenient sentences, Law Minister K Shanmugam said on Wednesday (Dec 20). 

Mr Shanmugam was responding, in a Facebook post, to public backlash on the sentences housewife Tan Hui Zhen and her husband Pua Hak Chuan received for 'torturing' intellectually disabled waitress Annie Ee to death. 

Tan was jailed 16-and-a-half years, while Pua got 14 years' jail and 14 strokes of the cane for assault. 

Many questioned why they were not charged with murder instead, pouring scorn not just on the couple, but also the lawyers defending them. 

On Monday, the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) issued a statement explaining that as the couple did not intend to cause Ee's death and the injuries they inflicted would not ordinarily cause death, "the offences of murder and culpable homicide (could not) be proved against them". 

"WE OUGHT TO BE CIVILISED"

Mr Shanmugam said he was one of many Singaporeans who were outraged by the plight of Annie Ee, who had suffered eight months of horrific abuse.

"What happened to her should not happen to anyone," said Mr Shanmugam, who is also Home Affairs Minister. "I can understand the anger that many feel."

However, the minister also said he was troubled by how some people had expressed their views. "An online petition seeking harsher sentences was filed and aspersions were cast on the defence lawyers' characters," he said.  

Singaporeans should "try and avoid putting public pressure on judges to impose harsh or lenient sentences" and to "have confidence that (the) judges will do the right thing", said the minister.  

"We have a well-functioning court system."

He also highlighted that the sentence a defendant receives, "in any particular case, must not depend on how the public reacts during the case". 

On the criticism directed at defence lawyer Josephus Tan, Mr Shanmugam reminded that a lawyer's duty was to "put forward the strongest possible arguments on behalf of his client in court". 

"It (is) a sad day for Singapore if lawyers are going to be hounded in public for standing up in court to argue on behalf of their clients," he said. 

"We ought to be a civilised society while expressing our unhappiness and moral outrage..." he added. 

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