The December 2017 decision to charge a couple who tortured their flatmate, Annie Ee, with the offence of “voluntarily causing grievous hurt”, as opposed to murder, sparked controversy in Singapore. An online petition seeking harsher punishments for the couple, continuing even after sentencing by the courts, garnered more than 39,000 signatories by April 2018. The case suggests some public confusion about prosecutorial discretion and how it works. This article attempts to explain the operation of prosecutorial discretion and to debunk certain common myths.
In the recently-decided case of Warner-Lambert Company LLC v Novartis (Singapore) Pte Ltd SGCA 45, the Court of Appeal (“CA”) addressed a number of novel issues in Singapore patent law. The dispute between the two pharmaceutical companies was based on Novartis’ potential infringement of Warner-Lambert’s patent. This patent (filed in 1997) claimed a monopoly over the use of a substance, pregabalin, for the treatment of pain (the “Patent”).
In the 19th century, illegal gaming activities managed by syndicates were part of the general crime that was rampant in Singapore (then known as the Straits Settlement). This was a serious problem as the early inhabitants of Singapore became addicted to gambling, leading to undesirable outcomes. Gambling activities came to be regarded as vices by Sir Stamford Raffles, and rules to regulate illegal public gambling were put into place.
In November 2017 the Singapore Court of Appeal narrowed the scope of “ultra-hazardous activity” under Singapore tort law through the case of Ng Huat Seng v Munib Mohammad Madni, and clarified (in obiter) the scope of activities which may fall within the doctrine of the ultra-hazardous act.
In the recent case of Chia Kok Weng v Chia Kwok Yeo, the Court of Appeal clarified the law on the presumption of resulting trusts. Specifically, the Court of Appeal made a distinction between (a) an intention to make a gift and (b) an intention to not retain a beneficial interest in the property. While they appear to be two sides of the same coin, it is necessary to distinguish between them in certain situations to afford greater protection to the uninformed transferor.
The key question posed in the recent Singapore High Court decision of Sun Electric Pte Ltd v Sunseap Group Pte Ltd (“Sun Electric (No 2)”) was whether the High Court had jurisdiction at first instance to revoke a patent by way of a counterclaim in infringement proceedings. George Wei J’s response to this query was “no”.
Sentencing has always been something of an art. The balance between doing justice to the facts of the case and judicial consistency has proven to be somewhat elusive, in no small part due to the medley of factors which might arise for consideration. Fortunately, the recent Court of Appeal (“CA”) decision in Ng Kean Meng Terence v Public Prosecutor (“Ng Kean Meng”) has laid out a more principled approach to sentencing.
The Income Tax Board of Review (“ITBR”) decision in the 2016 case of GBG v The Comptroller of Income Tax (“GBG”) has shed some light on the conditions that must be fulfilled before the costs of debt may be deducted against taxable income. More importantly, it establishes the legal principle that whether expenditure is deemed capital or revenue in nature depends on the purpose of the underlying transaction ab initio, regardless of whether or not the purpose of that underlying transaction was subsequently realised.
In Global Yellow Pages Ltd v Promedia Directories Pte Ltd (“Global Yellow Pages”), the Court of Appeal (“CA”) clarified the extent of copyright protection afforded to databases. In doing so, the CA considered issues of copyright subsistence and infringement for compilation of factual material, providing guidance on the nature of copyright protection in Singapore.
The extent of auditors’ liability in negligence has, on the whole, been a settled area of law, stemming from the important English case of Caparo Industries Inc v Dickman (“Caparo”). The decision in Caparo with respect to negligent audit work has been followed in Singapore and other Commonwealth countries such as Australia and Canada. Nonetheless, with the benefit of legal advice, disclaimers of liability limiting auditor liability to the audit clients have crept into auditors’ reports.