Guarding Against Defensive Medicine: Singapore Medical Council v Dr Soo Shuenn Chiang [2019] SGHC 250

In Singapore Medical Council v Dr Soo Shuenn Chiang [2019] SGHC 250, psychiatrist Dr Soo Shuenn Chiang received a call regarding a patient (“Complainant”) from someone he thought was the Complainant’s husband. The caller informed Dr Soo that the patient was suicidal and needed to be brought to the Institute of Mental Health for an urgent assessment of her suicide risk. Dr Soo then wrote a memorandum (“Memorandum”), with pertinent information about the Complainant’s medical history, to be used by the police and ambulance staff. Dr Soo left the Memorandum with his clinic staff, with instructions that it should be handed to the Husband. However, unknown to Dr Soo, it was the Complainant’s brother who collected the Memorandum. The Complainant lodged a complaint with the SMC, and Dr Soo was subsequently found guilty of professional misconduct under section 53(1)(d) of the Medical Registration Act (Cap 174, 2014 Rev Ed). On appeal, the High Court ("HC") set aside the conviction. In its ruling, the HC clarified when a doctor may disclose a patient's confidential medical information without the patient's consent, and also that doctors are under a duty to take reasonable care to ensure that the information is not mishandled or released negligently to unauthorised persons.

BLV v Public Prosecutor [2019] SGCA 62: Sentencing Framework for Abuse of the Court’s Process

In the case of BLV v Public Prosecutor [2019] SGCA 62, the Singapore Court of Appeal ("CA") found that the offender, who had falsified his evidence and even procured a witness to do the same, had abused the process of the court. In light of such conduct, the CA imposed a significant "uplift" (or increase) on the offender's existing sentence. In doing so, the CA discussed the factors that the court would consider for imposing an uplift which was due to an offender's abuse of the court's process.

A second bite at the cherry: Using fresh evidence on appeal Anan Group (Singapore) Pte Ltd v VTB Bank (Public Joint Stock Co) [2019] SGCA 41

When a case goes on appeal, parties often try to adduce (or offer) new evidence as part of the appeal. Generally, where the new evidence concerns matters which occurred before the date of the decision in the court below, parties are allowed to offer such evidence only with leave (or permission) from the higher court. This is in the interests of finality in litigation, and also of the fair administration of justice (so as to incentivize parties to advance their entire case at trial, rather than deliberately leave over points solely for the purpose of appeals and thereby obtaining a “second bite at the cherry”).

Convicting secondary offenders of money laundering: Yap Chen Hsiang Osborn v Public Prosecutor [2019] SGCA 40

In Yap Chen Hsiang Osborn v Public Prosecutor [2019] SGCA 40, the Court of Appeal (“CA”) clarified that section 47(1) of the Corruption, Drug Trafficking and Other Serious Crimes (Confiscation of Benefits) Act (Cap 65A, 2000 Rev Ed) (“CDSA”), which essentially makes it an offense to launder proceeds which represents one’s (i.e. the offender’s) benefits from criminal conduct, applies only to primary offenders (someone who launders the benefits of his or her own criminal conduct) and not secondary offenders (someone who does not himself or herself commit the offence from which the proceeds were originally derived, but launders the proceeds of another person’s crime).

Limits on the Scope of Judicial Review of Administrative Determinations: Lessons from Nagaenthran a/l K Dharmalingam v Public Prosecutor [2019] SGCA 37  

The Second Schedule of the Misuse of Drugs Act (Cap 185, 2008 Rev Ed) mandates the death penalty for drug trafficking of certain quantities of drugs. However, since the 2013 amendments, section 33B of the Act now allows the court to sentence a drug courier to life imprisonment instead: (i) when the Public Prosecutor has issued a “certificate of substantive assistance”, or (ii) when the courier suffers from an “abnormality of mind”. In Nagaenthran a/l K Dharmalingam v Public Prosecutor, the Court of Appeal addressed when the Public Prosecutor can be challenged in making his decision whether to issue a certificate of substantive assistance, and when an offender would be found to be suffering from an abnormality of mind.

Employers’ duty to respond to payment claims outside the scope of the SOPA: Far East Square Pte Ltd v Yau Lee Construction (Singapore) Pte Ltd [2019] SGCA 36

Far East Square Pte Ltd v Yau Lee Construction (Singapore) Pte Ltd [2019] SGCA 36 concerned the Building and Construction Industry Security of Payment Act (Cap 30B, 2006 Rev Ed) (the “SOPA”), which facilitates cash flow in the building and construction industry by providing a quick and efficient means of adjudicating (i.e. providing a formal judgement on) payment disputes with “temporary finality”.

Jurisdiction over a foreign contemnor: Li Shengwu v Attorney General [2019] SGCA 20

In July 2017, the appellant Li Shengwu published a post on Facebook stating that the “Singapore government is very litigious and has a pliant court system. This constrains what the international media can usually report.” The Attorney-General ("AG") considered this statement to be made in contempt of court, specifically scandalising the courts (or “scandalising contempt”). Li argued in the High Court that the courts had no jurisdiction (or authority) over him, as leave to serve the committal papers on him out of jurisdiction had been wrongly given. As such, service should be set aside and not be considered effective. The High Court disagreed. On appeal, the Court of Appeal upheld the High Court's judgment. 

To plead or not to plead? Qualifying a guilty plea during mitigation: Public Prosecutor v Dinesh s/o Rajantheran [2019] SGCA 27

In Public Prosecutor v Dinesh s/o Rajantheran [2019] SGCA 27, the Court of Appeal (“CA”) answered two questions by the Prosecution, regarding the proper interpretation of section 228(4) of the Criminal Procedure Code (Cap 68, 2012 Rev Ed) (“CPC”). Under section 228(4), the court “must reject” a party’s guilty plea if it is satisfied that any matter raised in mitigation “materially affects any legal condition” which constitutes the underlying offence.

By-elections for single vacancies in GRCs: Wong Souk Yee v Attorney-General [2019] SGCA 25

In Singapore, there are two types of electoral divisions – Single Member Constituencies (“SMCs”) and Group Representation Constituencies (“GRCs”). The number of seats in a GRC varies from 4 to 6 seats. The GRC scheme was introduced in 1988 with the goal of promoting greater minority representation. As such, each GRC must have at least one Member of Parliament (“MP”) from a minority racial group. In Wong Souk Yee v AG [2019] SGCA 25, the Court of Appeal (“CA”) addressed the question of whether a by-election for all the seats of the GRC is required when only one MP vacates his or her seat in the GRC. The CA held that a by-election is not required under such circumstances.

Arbitration: A second chance to object to the tribunal’s jurisdiction – Rakna Arakshaka Lanka Ltd v Avant Garde Maritime Services (Private) Limited [2019] SGCA 33

In Rakna Arakshaka Lanka Ltd v Avant Garde Maritime Services (Private) Limited [2019] SGCA 33, a respondent disagreed with an arbitral tribunal’s ruling that the tribunal had jurisdiction over the respondent’s dispute with the claimant, and did not participate in arbitral proceedings over the dispute. The respondent also did not appeal the ruling within the 30-day period. The Court of Appeal held that the respondent was not precluded by Article 16(3) of the UNCITRAL Model law from raising such objections in setting-aside proceedings.