Tuesday, November 16, 2010


Nov 9, 2010

Apology a 'tactical ploy'

By Selina Lum

THE lawyer acting for British author Alan Shadrake, who has been held in contempt of court, told the High Court on Tuesday that his client 'will certainly apologise if he has offended the sensitivity of the court'.

In arguing for a lenient sentence for Shadrake, 76, Mr M Ravi maintained that the freelance journalist has never intended to undermine Singapore's courts in his book Once A Jolly Hangman: Singapore's Justice In The Dock.

Mr Ravi said his client should be given only a censure.

But Deputy Senior State Counsel Hema Subramanian dismissed it as a 'half-hearted' apology that was 'insufficient and insincere' and a 'tactical ploy' by Shadrake to escape punishment.
Ms Subramanian said the contempt in Shadrake's case far exceeded past cases.

'This is an especially pernicious case of grave and aggravated contempt that is without precedent in Singapore,' she said, pressing the court to jail Shadrake for at least 12 weeks.

Mr Ravi argued that Ms Subramanian's arguments were a mockery to logic that 'brings us back to the dark era of the Middle Ages'.

He said it was 'the joke of the century' that the Attorney-General's Chambers claim the book undermines public confidence in the courts but yet has done nothing to ban it.

'If they mean what they say, ban the book,' he said.

Justice Quentin Loh, noting that submissions from both sides are 'far apart', said he would think about it and give his decision on Shadrake's sentence next Tuesday.

Nov 16, 2010

Author gets 6 weeks jail, fine

BRITISH writer Alan Shadrake, 76, was sentenced to six weeks in jail and fined S$20,000 on Tuesday for contempt of court.

Shadrake was also ordered to pay S$55,000 in costs to the prosecution by High Court Judge Quentin Loh.

The judge dismissed a last-minute apology by Shadrake as 'nothing more than a tactical ploy in court to obtain a reduced sentence', and ruled that the freelance journalist will have to serve two more weeks in prison if he fails to pay the fine.

'A fine should be imposed to prevent Mr Shadrake from profiting from his contempt (of court),' the judge said. The High Court delivered the verdict against Shadrake in connection with his book Once a Jolly Hangman: Singapore Justice in the Dock, which was deemed to have insulted the Singaporean judiciary.

The attorney-general's office, which took Shadrake to court, claims that statements in the book impugn the impartiality, integrity and independence of the judiciary.

The writer accused Singapore's courts of succumbing to political influences and favoring the rich over the poor in his book 'Once a Jolly Hangman: Singapore's Justice in the Dock.' The book contained 'half-truths and selective facts; sometimes even outright falsehoods,' Judge Loh said in his Nov 3 verdict.

The prosecution had sought a jail term of at least 12 weeks because of Shadrake's 'continued defiance' and allegations of 'the worst possible kind' against the judiciary. Shadrake had no intention of undermining the city's judiciary and ought to be censured instead of jailed or fined, his lawyer M. Ravi said at a Nov 9 hearing. -- AFP, AP

[There is a valid point raised by the defence attorney. If the book is in contempt of court, then the remedy should require the sale of the book to be stopped, or the contempt would continue. Moreover, a fine to ensure the author does not profit from the sale of the book assumes that profits will not exceed $20,000. This would perversely incentivise Shadrake to promote sales so that he recovers his fine. A proper decision would be a ban or an order to cease and desist. This smells of half measures and as the defence notes, makes a joke of the entire charge of contempt of court.]

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